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ORGANI 




i 


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revolutionary anarchism 







Organise! - Spring Edition 


Organise! The magazine of the Anarchist Federation 


Organise! is the magazine of the Anarchist Federation 
(AF). It is published in order to develop anarchist 
communist ideas. It aims to provide a clear anarchist 
viewpoint on contemporary issues and to initiate debate 
on ideas not normally covered in agitational papers. 

We aim to produce Organise! twice a year. To meet this 
target, we positively solicit contributions from our readers. 
We aim to print any article that furthers the objectives of 
anarchist communism. If you’d like to write something for 
us, but are unsure whether to do so, why not get in touch 
first? Even articles that are 100% in agreement with our 
aims and principles can leave much open to debate. 

As always, the articles in this issue do not 
necessarily represent the collective viewpoint of 
the AF. We hope that their publication will produce 
responses from our readers and spur debate on. 

For the next issue of Organise! Please send all 
contributions to the address on the right. 

It would help if all articles could be either typed or on 
disc. Alternatively, articles can be emailed to the editors 
directly at organisedafed.org.uk 


What goes in Organise! 

Organise! hopes to open up debate in many areas 
of life. As we have stated before, unless signed by 
the Anarchist Federation as a whole or by a local AF 
group, articles in Organise! reflect the views of the 
person who has written the article and nobody else. 

If the contents of one of the articles in this 
issue provokes thought, makes you angry, 
compels a response then let us know. 
Revolutionary ideas develop from debate, 
they do not merely drop out of the air! 


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Organise! - Spring Edition 



ORGANISE! Issue 84 - Spring 2015 


Editorial 4 

Fight for the City: Social cleansing. Social warfare. 5 

Poking a future monarch with a stick 15 

War and Barbarism 22 

Rojava: Reality & Rhetoric 26 

A load of crystal balls: the Election and Beyond 42 

What the Suffragettes did for us 49 

Sylvia Pankhurst on Parliament 52 

Report from AFem 2014 Anarcha-feminist Conference in London 56 

Culture: Theo Van Rysselberghe 59 

Review: The Wobblies in Their Heyday 50 

Review: The Method of Freedom 53 

Obituary: Colin Parker 55 


Organise! BM Anarfed 
London, WC)N rXX 
organise@afed.org.uk 


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4 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Editorial 

What’s in the latest Organise! 


This issue of Organise! goes to press at the 
time of the election. As we say here, whoever 
wins the election the governments always 
gets in. Whichever brand of politician ends 
up in the majority or whatever coalition is 
lashed together we know that the current 
programme of capitalist austerity will continue. 
It will result in even more devastating cuts 
than we have already experienced, coupled 
with a strengthening of police powers to curb 
any opposition. As the crisis that is capitalism 
rumbles on, we must be prepared to fight 
against its latest representatives whoever they 
may be. 

Fight for the City explains some ways in which 
opposition can be developed, in this instance 
focusing on the housing struggle. Social cleansing 
and gentrification, another facet of the capitalist crisis, 
are effecting towns and cities across the world with 
increasing speed and we must learn how to organise 
against them with similar speed and tenacity. 

We also include an in-depth analysis of the resistance 
to austerity in the UK so far. Looking back over the 
past five years of Student Occupations, TUC strikes, 
UK Uncut Actions and mass rioting. We take a look at 
the strengths and weaknesses and how we can build 
a more effective resistance. 

Another aspect of the crisis of capitalism is the 
descent into war and barbarism. We look at the 
various 


plays of both the big powers like the US, Russia and 
China and local powers like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and 
Israel in the Near and Middle East. Our opposition to 
capitalism and the State must always have a strong 
anti-militarist and internationalist emphasis. 

We include a critical look at the situation in Rojava 
from French revolutionaries, which questions the 
rebirth of the PKK into libertarian organisation. 

The question of voting, not voting, and what we can 
even vote for anyway, is discussed in Crystal Balls. 
This theme is continued in the article on what the 
Suffragettes won for us, with a no-nonsense view on 
the use of Parliament by Sylvia Pankhurst to back it 
up. This is followed with a look at the contemporary 
Anarcha-Feminist movement with a report from 
AFem 2014. 

Also in this issue is an article on the Belgian painter 
Theo Van Rysselberghe, who like many other painters 
in France and Belgium, took up the anarchist cause. 
In addition we have our usual book reviews, which 
includes a look at a new collection of the writings of 
Malatesta, one of the most pragmatic of anarchist 
revolutionaries, and a book on how the State used 
the most ferocious means to crush the IWW, a mass 
organisation of the working class, in order to protect 
their war interests. 

We finish this issue of Organise! on a sad note as we 
remember Colin Parker, one of the founders of the 
Anarchist Federation, who died early this year. 


5 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Fight for the city 

Social cleansing, Social warfare 


Over half of the world’s population live in cities. This is expected to rise to 75% by 2050. The move to 
the cities first occurred in Europe with industrialisation. It was a relatively slow process compared to 
the pace of change in the developing world. For example, London in 1910 was seven times larger than it 
had been in 1780 whereas, China added more city-dwellers in the 1980s than did all of Europe, including 
Russia, in the entire 19th century (Davis: 2007). And cities are constantly changing, transformed by 
the need for capitalism to find new sources of profit. Capitalism has continually strived to ensure that 
all aspects of work involve the creation of surplus value. Now, capital is bringing all aspects of life 
into the capitalist orbit- making where we live and what we do when we are not at work, part of this 
value creation system. This means the control of all space, not just where we work. 

Symptoms 

Britain and other western countries have seen a 
massive increase in the cost of housing, increase 
in evictions and homelessness, whole council 
estates torn down and sold off to private developers, 
overcrowding in squalid accommodation, city centres 
privatised and transformed into sanitised shopping 
malls, business centres and tourist destinations, 
attacks on the poor- cuts in benefit, the bedroom tax, 
low wages, fewer green and open spaces and more 
sky scrapers, increased pollution, police violence, 
and increased surveillance. 

Meanwhile, developing countries have seen rapid 
urbanisation as rural dwellers are forced into the 
cities to make a living, no concern to provide any 
housing for the new arrivals, massive growth in slums 
and shanty towns, slum clearances on a regular 
basis when it suits the needs of capital, demolition 
of traditional urban communities to make way for 
corporate architecture and gated communities. 


All of these things have one cause- the transformation 
of cities all over the world from places of homes, 
neighbourhoods, and social networks to places 
where capital can make money. We are witnessing 
social cleansing on a mass scale as cities are turned 
into investment opportunities and playgrounds for 
the increasing number of the super-rich, both home¬ 
grown and foreign, with local and national politicians 
firmly behind them. Yet at the same time, capital 
has need of workers, so they can’t push us too far 
outside of the city. So the working class and the 
poor are channelled into enclaves of sub-standard, 
overcrowded housing or slums and shanty towns in 
the developing world. Meanwhile, the well-off hide in 
their gated communities and their security-protected 
luxury tower blocks. We are witnessing nothing less 
than the complete takeover of the city by capital and 
the state, reshaping the city for high-value business, 
including tourism and the culture industry, such as 
universities and the areas that surround them. 


6 


This process has been going on for several decades. 
There have been pockets of resistance as individuals 
and groups fight back: against workfare, benefits 
cuts, the bedroom tax, hospital closures, estate 
evictions, luxury developments, police violence, and 
racism. However, the attack continues, seemingly 
unstoppable. But recently more and more people are 
realising what is happening, and they are beginning 
to link up struggles and are winning some important 
victories against property developers, landlords, and 
government. The future of our cities now hangs in 
the balance. It is up to us to fight for the kind of city 
we want to live in. This puts us in direct opposition 
to wealthy investors, property developers and 
construction companies, financial institutions and 
corporations, estate agents and landlords as well 
as politicians, both local and national, their servants 
in the police. In other words, it is a fight against 
global capitalism and the state; a fight for anarchist 
communism. 

This article will examine both the causes of the attack 
on our cities and what we need to do to win the battle. 
It will focus mainly on London, which has its own 
peculiar situation as the centre of finance capital, but 
you will be able to find many similarities with other 
cities in Britain and the rest of the world. It is in two 
parts. The first part focuses on the issue of housing, 
the way in which capital is transforminghomes into 
investment opportunities and the consequences of 
this for the working class in the city. 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
The second part will examine the general privatisation 
and control of all space in the city, turning every part 
of the city into a place for capital and excluding all 
who don’t produce profits or challenge the system in 
any way. 

Regeneration: The working class evicted 
One of the most significant signs of what is happening 
to our cities is the forcing out of the working class from 
areas of the city that are the target for money-making 
ventures. In London and many other cities, the centre 
and the immediate periphery are considered ‘prime’ 
property. This means that the working class is being 
pushed further and further out. It may go under 
the name of regeneration but what is happening is 
effectively social cleansing. It is at its most obvious in 
the slum clearances that occur regularly in the cities 
of the developing world. For example, the demolition 
of Zhejiang Village, the poorest area of Beijing, in 
1995. It was a two-month operation involving 5,000 
armed police and party cadres. In the end 9,917 
homes were destroyed, 1,645 ‘illegal’ businesses 
were shut down and 18621 ‘illegal’ residents were 
deported. This might seem an extreme example, but 
there are certain similarities with Britain, with whole 
estates demolished and their residents ‘decanted’ 
no one knowing exactly where they went. This social 
cleansing is a consequence of both market forces 
and deliberate government policy. In Britain, there 
has traditionally been a mixture of people in different 
parts of the city, including the centre. This was 


7 


because of the building of council housing on a 
massive scale in the 1930s and then after World War 
II. It wasn’t just the poor who lived in council homes, 
but many from the wider working class and even the 
middle class. Now, there is a move to create areas 
of the city that are exclusively for business, tourism, 
culture industries, and the super-rich. 

Decimation of social housing 
Council housing was decimated with Thatcher’s right 
to buy policy in the 1980s, which took millions of 
homes out of the public sector. 

Once the damage had been done, both 
physically and ideologically, the next 
governments, both Conservative and Labour, 
continued to sell of its housing stock. 

With the economy in more or less constant crisis, 
governments sought ways of making the working 
class pay by finding ways of making cuts that would 
leave the rich untouched. Selling off housing stock 
to housing associations was a main way of doing 
this for local councils, who were being 
squeezed by central government cuts. 

By 2008,170 councils had no housing 
stock left. Scotland has almost none 
left. By 2012 there were only 1.7 
million council homes, but 2.4 million 
in housing associations. 

Transferring the stock to housing 
associations was the first step to full 
privatisation. Housing associations 
are now in the process of going into 
‘partnership’ with private developers, 
which usually means selling off a part of their 
stock to private developers in order to raise funds 
for the property that remains. The New Era 
Estate in Shoreditch, London fought and won 
against their so-called social landlord who was 
planning on selling off the estate to Westbrook, an 
American property developer. However, this is only 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
one victory and there are countless other examples, 
often not fully publicised, of this kind of sell off on 
the part of social landlords. Councils are also quite 
happy to sell off their stock and evict tenants. The 
Fred John Towers in Leytonstone, London is currently 
fighting against their local authority who wants to sell 
one of the towers to private developers and move 
out the rest for 6 years whilst they renovate the other 
tower. The Aylesbury Estate in south London and 
the Carpenters Estate near the Olympic Park, both 
recently occupied by housing protesters, have been 
subject to gradual neglect and eviction of residents, 
with the aim of knocking the estates down and selling 
them off. 

Another key policy introduced by Tony Blair was 
Pathfinder. This programme was designed to ‘create 
a housing market’ in so-called deprived areas across 
northern Britain. This means that it wanted to increase 
the demand for housing which would be seen in rising 
house prices. The fact that people are quite happy 


living where they are and don’t need or want housing 
market, seems to have escaped the politicians. For 
them, as always, it is about making money. Anna 
Minton in her book Ground Control documents 
the effects of this policy in detail. Whole terraces 
of houses, a mixture of council, social and private 



were allowed to run down, encouraging the council 
and social tenants to leave. Housing associations 
were known to pay tenants to go elsewhere. The end 
result was a few people left in the streets, giving the 
government the excuse to demolish all the houses 
and sell them off to private developers. Whole 
communities were decimated as a result. The new 
developments would be more attractive in theory 
and therefore there would be increased demand for 
them. Needless to say, the original residents would 
not be able to afford to buy any of the new homes. 


With the right to buy, many of those 
being threatened with eviction owned 
their own homes. Ironically, the ‘home 
owner democracy’ counted for little 
when the state wanted to get its hands 
on their homes. The main weapon 
used was compulsory purchase. A 
new law was passed that enable the 
government to put out a Compulsory 
Purchase Order it was necessary for 
the economic benefit of the public. 
So if money was to be made, which 
supposedly would ‘trickle down’ to 
the public, then a CPO was justified. 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
These practices of evicting whole estates and streets 
shows the contempt that governments, ‘social’ 
landlords, and developers have for ordinary people. 
They don’t consider that, for individuals and families, 
the flats and houses that they are being moved from 
are their homes, part of a neighbourhood, and in some 
cases aclose community. To thinkthat it doesn’t matter 
as long as people have been moved somewhere, 
indicates either a conscious or unconscious 
desire to sabotage working class communities. 

Rising house prices and rents 
Another factor contributing to social 
cleansing, in London in particular, is the rise 
in house prices and rents. To understand 
why this is happening we need to take a 
step back and analyse the relationship 
of the housing market to capitalism. 
Capitalists are forever searching for 
new ways to make money. They may 
have made money out of production or 
resource extraction, eg the oil, but in some 
ways actually using the money made to 
produce something useful may be too 
hard and too slow. And they certainly don’t 
want to use their money to help alleviate 
world poverty. Whatever the reason, the 
main way that people make money is through the 
financial system, either investing in stocks or other 
speculative investments. With uncertainty around the 
stock market, property has increasingly been seen 
as a safe investment that would guarantee quick 
and lucrative returns. This has been the case even 
for the middle classes who have taken advantage 
of buy-to-let mortgages as an alternative to relying 
on a pension. As a result, the demand for property, 
not homes, has shot up and therefore with a limited 
supply, so have the prices both to buy and to rent. 

The government has fuelled the rise in prices through 
their own policies. And there is a reason for this; 


9 


the whole economy depends on rising house prices. 
This might seem odd, but given that Britain has very 
little manufacturing industry left to provide jobs and 
that most people are now worse off financially than 
they were a decade ago, there has to be a way of 
getting them to spend money. This is a fundamental 
contradiction of capitalism - they squeeze workers 
at the point of production, paying them as little as 
possible, but then want those same workers to be 
consumers! They have found the perfect solution - 
encourage them to take out a mortgage so they think 
they are home owners, keep house prices rising and 
they’ll think they are better off than they are. Capitalism 
then makes sure that credit is easily available to 
keep them spending and getting them further in debt. 

This is what caused the 
crisis in 2008. 

People started to default on their loans. However, 
the government bailed out the banks and soon it was 
business as usual as house prices rise. Though it 
is harder to get a mortgage than before, people are 
still encouraged to taken one on even if it means 
more debt. However, even the middle classes are 
beginning to suffer, and increasingly people who are 
not already on the property ladder are forced into 
rental accommodation. This increase in demand has 
pushed rents up as well as house prices in general. 

The super-rich and the housing market 
Linked to the rise in house prices in London is the 
influx of the world’s rich. In 2009, after the financial 
crisis had passed, there were 115 billionaires in China, 
101 in Russia, 55 in India in addition to 413 in the US 
and 32 in Britain. The incredible amount of wealth 
accumulated by some individuals is due largely to a 
transfer of wealth from the mass of the population. One 
percent of the population now own 50% of the world’s 
wealth. This was seen most blatantly in Russia, as the 
resources once owned by the State were gradually 
bought up at knock-down prices by a few individuals. 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
The Russian oligarchs came with suitcases full of 
roubles to London. Now it is the turn of the Chinese. 
The privatisation that took place in China has meant 
that some individuals have made big money through 
a combination of corruption and ruthless exploitation 
of their workforce, all enforced by the state. 


Number of super-rich individuals 

5,000 


3,750 

2,500 

1,250 


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3 


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a 

<o 

55 


£ 

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o 

* 

CT> 

C 

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X 


w 

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2 . 


These people need somewhere to put their money. 
They are not interested in putting it into something 
to help raise living standards of the world’s poor or 
even into producing a product. Apart from spending 
large amounts of their wealth on lavish lifestyles, 
they want their money to be safe and to make 
more money. London offers the ideal opportunity. 


London has always been a world financial centre. It 
is a place for the rich to invest their money, allowing 
the banks to do what they want with it, as long as 
they make more money. The role of the financial 
sector in the British economy has increased in the 
last few decades. London’s deregulated financial 
system means that investors can get away with 
practices they wouldn’t be able to elsewhere. It 
is closely associated with the off-shore banking 
network in places like Jersey and Guernsey. 

The taxation system favours the rich, with very 
low taxes on income and is also very favourable 
to foreign investors. 


They may be making money as a result of their 
investments, but if they can show that these 



investments, but if they can show that these 
investments are based elsewhere or that they are 
not permanent residents in Britain, they have to pay 
little or no tax. And, in case they are liable for tax, 
London has a booming tax “avoidance” industry. 

Britain’s role as head of an empire has also played 
a role in attracting the world’s wealthy to London. 
The life style of the English aristocracy seems to be 
one that is sought after by many. Most of the world’s 
wealthiest people, both corporate executives and 
celebrities, have at least one property in Britain, 
usually in London, where they can come and play at 
being a lord or lady. The Russian oligarchs, arriving 
in force in the late 1990s, have managed to revitalise 
the yachting industry and increase sales in the luxury 
goods shops, not to mention the increased demand 
for private school places and nannies and butlers. 

Politicians such as Boris Johnson and Ken 
Livingstone before him, went to great lengths to 
attract the rich to London. The justification for this 
is that there is a housing shortage and that they 
cannot afford to build new social housing because 
of the austerity measures. (They of course refuse 
to consider actually taxing all the wealth that 
has flooded into London, making the banks pay 
for their mistakes or cutting down on their war 
expenditure). The only way they say we can get new 
housing is by attracting private sector investment. 

Therefore, they have offered up 
London on a plate to the super-rich 
and global corporations. Developers 
are having a field day, with new 
housing developments even in 
previously “undesirable” areas. 

Most of them are then being sold to foreign investors, 
hoping to make a killing out of the rising prices and 
soaring rents. There is a minimal amount of affordable 


10 Organise! - Spring Edition 

housing which is actually not affordable, but 80% 
of market rents, so none of these developments 
are within the reach of the average Londoner and 
certainly not the poorest. They may rent some of the 
units out to the lawyers, accountants, bankers, other 
well-off professionals, and even tourists, but many of 
the units will remain empty, now known as ‘buy-to-sit’. 
There are whole streets in Chelsea and Kensington 
that have no lights on at night. It is estimated that 
20% of this borough consists of empty properties. 

Therefore, the demand for cheaper housing by 
everyone else, including councils for their large 
homeless populations, is higher than supply. As 
a result private landlords step in and charge the 
maximum they can get away with, cut back on repairs 
and improvements, and/or squash more people into 
the property than it can reasonably hold. If anyone is 
made homeless, the council is quick to try and move 
them out of the central London boroughs or out of 
London completely. Housing benefit levels are too low 
to be able to rent properties in most parts of London. 

Therefore, social cleansing is a consequence 
of shortage social housing, rising house prices 
and rents, all of which are caused by the 
need of capital to make money out of the city. 

Apartheid in the city 

It is important to grasp that we dealing 
here with a fundamental reorganisation 
of metropolitan space, involving a 
drastic diminution of the intersections 
between the lives of the rich and poor. 

P.119 Planet of Slums 

It is not just a question of moving the working class 
further out from the city centre. Many of the well-off 
do not want to live in the centre in a high rise flat. 
They may have one for work, but if they have a family 
they are more likely to move to the leafy suburbs. 


11 


This is already the case in the US where there has 
been a massive exodus of the upper and middle 
classes from downtown. In Britain, there still is a 
tendency for the well-off to prefer a more centrally 
located house, but we are still witnessing moves 
outside of London to a large house or mansion in 
Surrey. So it is not just a question of moving the 
working class out of the centre but of making sure 
that the working class, especially the ‘undeserving 
poor’, do not ‘contaminate’ other social classes. 
Many local councils support regeneration by saying 
they want a better ‘mix’ of residents. However, this is 
only so they can get the better-off residents into the 
area. This ‘mix’ is deceptive. The new developments 
are often versions of gated communities. This idea 
started in the US but has taken off in other parts of 
the world. These gated communities separate off 
the rich and the middle class from the ‘dangerous’ 
masses. These could be city centre developments 
with high level security systems or they may be 
special communities in the suburbs, which are 
linked to the centre by special transport systems. 

New residential ‘towers’ are springing up in key 
areas of London. Some are along the Thames in 
central London whilst others are in and around 
Canary Wharf, Liverpool St, and Stratford. 

In theory every development is meant to have some 
‘affordable’ housing or make some contribution to 
the community, such as a health centre. Developers 
are increasingly finding ways of avoiding having 
to provide any affordable, and certainly not social, 
housing. They will often pay the council a sum of 
money as a contribution to their social housing 
fund. They then can promote their development as 
‘completely private’ to their potential clients, assuring 
them that they won’t have to mix with the riff-raff! 
Meanwhile, the council doesn’t use the money for any 
social housing. If the developers do end up providing 
some cheaper housing, they will put in separate 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
entrances (’’poor doors”), the subject of an on-going 
campaign at 1 Commercial St in Aldgate, London. 

In some of the developing countries, in which 
the extremes of rich and poor are much greater 
and therefore more frightening for the rich, gated 
communities are the norm. In Planet of the Slums, 
Mike Davis documents the rise of what he calls ‘off- 
worlds’ - a term taken from the film Blade Runner. 

Whole suburbs are built which 
completely isolate the well-off from 
the mass of the population. These 
are often modelled after places in 
southern California. Cairo has Beverly 
Hills, Beijing has Orange County, 
and Hong Kong has Palm Springs. 

These may be actual places in southern California, 
but for the rich of the developing world they are 
brand names which are symbolic of wealth, status, 
and exclusivity. They are surrounded by high fences 
and tight security. They are connected to the financial 
and business centres by super highways that provide 
a safe corridor between their suburban mansion and 
their place of work, though many of these places are 
now incorporating business headquarters as well. 
According to Jeremy Seabrook, quoted in Davis: ‘the 
Third World bourgeoisie cease to be citizens of their 
own country and become nomads belonging to, and 
owing allegiance to a superterrestrial topography of 
money; they become patriots of wealth, nationalists 
of an exclusive and golden nowhere’, (p.120) 

Therefore, the rich are separated not just 
from the rest of the population but also from 
the reality of the country itself. There are 
similarities with the foreign investors in London. 

The Russian oligarchs may 
ape the life-style of the British 
upper classes but they have no 
interest in Britain or its people. 


12 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


They live a life of luxury on their yacht or Chelsea 
mansion with the wives shopping at Harrods, but that 
is as far as the connection goes (apart from bribing 
our politicians!). The planned development at the 
Royal Albert Docks is another case in point. Boris 
Johnson sold the whole area to a Chinese company 
without any opportunity for British companies to 
even bid. The aim is to establish an ‘East Asian 
enclave’ in Newham, one of the poorest boroughs 
of London. This will be another Canary Wharf where 
East Asian executives will be able to conduct their 
business without even having to mix with their British 
counterparts! It is similar to what the Europeans 
did in China in the 19th and early 20th century 
with their special enclaves in places like Shanghai. 



Labour force 

It is not possible to exclude the working masses 
completely. After all, who will do the cleaning? Who 
will do the lowly office jobs and staff the restaurants? 
In the developing countries the problem is solved by 
having people live in special accommodation near 
their work. So maids will sleep in the garden shed 
or the basement of the exclusive suburbs, and rural 
migrant workers will stay in factory dormitories. These 
workers have no right of residence and even if they 
did, they wouldn’t be able to afford the prices. Or, the 
workers will live in theslums, shanty towns thatthey set 


up themselves in order to be near work. They are safe 
as long as the rich are protected from these slums in 
their high security suburbs or until the land they are on 
is wanted for yet another money-making opportunity. 

In Britain, workers have two choices. They can live 
close to their work in sub-standard and over-crowded 
conditions, paying at least half their salary in rent, or 
they can move further out and spend more money 
and time commuting. The point here is that capital 
does not bear any of the cost of this - it is the workers’ 
time and money that is being spent getting to work. 
And, if the workers decide to live closer, capital 
also wins by making huge profits on the rent paid. 

Resistance 

People are fighting back. There have been a number 
of campaigns against all aspects of the attack on 
working class housing in the city. The Pathfinder 
project produced campaigns that went on for years, 
such as the Derker Community Action Group in 
Oldham or Elizabeth Pascoe’s fight in North Liverpool 
(see Anna Minton’s Ground Control for more detail). 
In London, the residents left on the Carpenters 
Estate in Stratford, east London managed to fight 
off the plans of the University of London to take 
over the estate and build a branch of the university. 

Campaigners in West Hendon estate in North 
London have managed to keep their homes for 
years, despite the constant threat of eviction. 
New Era estate in Shoreditch, London mounted 
one of the most successful campaigns. 

They managed to ‘persuade’ the US 
development company Westbrook 
to abandon attempts to turn the 
property into up-scale private flats 
and now the estate is to be turned 
over to a social housing association. 


Currently new campaigns are springing up around 
London, such astheAylesbury Estate in south London. 
Even though squatting residential properties is now a 
criminal offence, they are using occupation as a tool 
in the struggle, physically taking over empty flats. 

Campaigns are also fighting individual evictions 
and against private landlords. Focus E15, who ran 
a successful campaign to get 29 single mothers 
rehoused in the local area rather than being sent out 
of London, continues to fight individual cases and 
also organised a militant protest at the British Credit 
Awards (aka the ‘Bailiff’s Ball’). Solidarity networks 
are also being set up (eg. in Glasgow and Bristol), 
a way of supporting individuals who are facing any 
housing problem such as losing a deposit or landlord 
refusal to do repairs. Private renter groups are also 
being organised, tackling issues such as rent rises. 

The struggles have had different degrees of 
success. What are the common ingredients? 

Campaigns that focus on one 
individual landlord or situation tend 
to do well. This is partially because 
it is possible for the landlord, or 
council, to give in on one case 
more easily than a campaign that is 
fighting evictions or other problems 
on the level of the whole estate. 

However, these campaigns also have had victories 
because of the tactics used: direct action - taking 
the fight directly to the landlord or council. Focus 
El 5 has been relentless in their attack on Newham 
council and the mayor Robin Wales, recently winning 
a case against him for verbal abuse of two of the 
young mothers at the heart of the campaign. They 
also mounted an occupation of Carpenters Estate 
and have been making links with and encouraging 
other campaigns in the area. Though a political 


13 Organise! - Spring Edition 

organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Group, 
has been involved in the campaign from the 
beginning and their paper is frequently to be seen 
on all events, their message is that it must be those 
directly involved, the residents themselves, who 
take charge of the campaign. Those who come 
along to the stall or one of the actions are there to 
support and not take over or substitute themselves 
for the estate residents or individual facing eviction. 

The lack of support from residents is 
one of the key weaknesses of some of 
the other campaigns. The Aylesbury 
occupation came about as a result of the 
March for Homes with some activists, 
many from the squatting movement, 
thinking about what action they could 
take to make the struggle more 
effective than a march from A to B. 

They were aware of the need to get residents on 
their side and there are some directly involved in the 
occupation. They say that there is ‘passive’ support 
for the occupation but the campaign would be much 
stronger if it was based on the residents themselves 
with support from the occupiers, rather than the 
occupiers trying to get support after they have already 
occupied and are then busy trying to maintain the 
occupation and fight off the police. However, the estate 
itself has been in the process of being ‘decanted’ for 
some time so that in many ways it is difficult to build 
up support. That is the problem with fighting whole 
estate evictions. Often the process is gradual, and if 
the residents themselves aren’t organised and ready 
to fight, the estate is almost empty before housing 
activists find out about what is going on. This doesn’t 
mean that these occupations are not worth doing - 
they are a good way of raising awareness of what is 
going on and provide a focal point for struggles in the 
local area - it is just that to actually win, the residents 
need to still be living there and wanting to fight. 



THE NEW ERA FAMILY ISSUE 


EVICTION *, 
NOTICE 

TO THE BENYON BILLIONAIRE BROTHERS 
RICHARD BEN YON MP EDWARDBENYON 

I DATEiSAT 8 NOVEMBER 1 

| PREMISES:THE WHOLE NEIGHBOURHOOD \ 

_ The Benyon brothers are hereby notified that they and 
yj their big US development backers are evicted from the 
New Era es tote by the families that live there . The 
jsl continuing attack on ordinary families and communities 
must stop * social housing not social deansing. 

Also, Sons Johnson> it would be nice if you represented the 
people who elected you instead of seducing big business 
and serving the interests of cash-grabbing money 
monsters. 



o 


The New Era campaign demonstrates a combination 
of successful tactics. The residents started organising 
themselves many months before local activists 
became involved to support. This meant that they 
were already well-organised and united and could be 
at the centre of their campaign. There was no need 
to win over the residents because they already were 
fighting. The other tactic is the way in which they took 
the struggle direct to the developer. They made links 
with Westbrooktenants in America which embarrassed 
Westbrook. In the end, a big property developer like 
Westbrook didn’t want the hassle and pulled out. 

Another positive feature of the growing housing 
struggle is the fact that many of the campaigns are 
beginning to make links. The Radical Housing Network 
in London brings together several local campaigns 
as a way of giving each other support, as well as 
organising united action against common enemies. For 
example, they organised a successful protest outside 


Organise! - Spring Edition 

the international property developers fair MIPIM last 
October and a week of action ending with a protest 
against Boris Johnson and his budget in February. 

As shown in this article, the problems are much 
larger than the council refusing to build more council 
houses and selling off their properties to private 
developers. In fact, it may not even be necessary to 
build more homes, which will only use up more land 
that could be used for open public space such as 
parks. It is more a matter of redistribution of the empty 
properties that are there, for example the takeover 
of the empty mansions, and the transformation 
of all the empty office blocks into housing. 

In addition, we shouldn’t be uncritical 
of both council and social housing. 
Council housing in its early years 
was about the provision of housing 
for the ‘deserving’ poor and itself 
involved social cleansing of the 
‘slums’. In addition, just because 
housing is owned by the state 
does not make it in itself desirable. 

The state can also be a bad landlord, which is why 
so many tenants did not put up much of a fight 
when council housing was sold off to residents or 
transferred to social landlords. Though many people 
have good memories of the sense of communities 
on council estates, it depended very much on which 
estate. However, the sale to social landlords, the 
housing associations, has proved to be a disaster. 
Though councils themselves have sold off property 
to private developers, it is much more likely to 
happen under a so-called social landlord. These 
landlords have had money cut by central government 
which has exacerbated the tendency for them to 
transform themselves into private corporations, 
putting rents up, selling off properties, and/or going 
into ‘partnership’ with private developers. What 


14 


15 


Organise! - Spring Edition 

counts more than the type of tenure, is the degree of organisation of tenants and residents. 

It is probably easier to organise if the landlord is the council, which is the main reason why 
it is still a worthy demand. However, the focus of all campaigns must be to strengthen the 
self-organisation of the tenants and residents themselves, no matter who the landlord is. 

Though we still need to target councils 
and make the demands, we must begin 
to widen the scope of the campaign and 
fight both the developers and the foreign 
investors who are buying up properties. 

As long as cities are held hostage to capital and the need to make money out of the city, 
any council is going to face strong pressure to accept the logic of private investment. Not 
only are their funds limited by central government itself, but the power of companies and 
individuals worth millions must be a great temptation for the politicians. In other words, the 
fight is against global capitalism itself and the State which facilitates the takeover of the city. 






16 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Poking 
a future 
monarch 
with a stick 

- a critical look at 
the UK anti-cuts 
movement 

The fight against austerity driven cuts (or ‘savings’ 
as the state refers to them) mobilised hundreds 
of thousands of people across the UK, saw the 
wide spread adoption of direct action, and an 
unprecedented level of student militancy. It saw the 
largest strike in a generation, the largest protest since 
the outbreak of the Iraq war, the most widespread 
rioting in decades, and attacks on key government 
buildings on a scale not seen since the poll tax riots. 
It also failed. It didn’t meet any of its key goals, and 
whilst we should celebrate those small victories 
that were achieved, we also have to recognise that 
we failed to harness or sustain the level of anger 
and activity that marked the peak of the anti-cuts 
movements in 2010 and 2011. Here we take a look 
at those intertwined movements, the student revolt, 
UK UNCUT, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), local 
anti-cuts groups, and single issue campaigns. Why 
weren’t they more effective? How could they have 
been? Most importantly, what can we do now? 


The Student Movement 

Some of the earliest blows against austerity were 
landed by the student movement. The foundations 
for this movement were laid in 2009, with the wave 
of university occupations in support of the struggle of 
Palestinians against the Israeli state. This experience 
taught many students important tactical lessons, and 
the victories it achieved boosted the confidence of 
those that took part and those who would follow them. 

Following the announcement of the tripling of tuition 
fees, the cutting of education funding and the 
scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance 
(EMA), the response from college, school, and 
university students was explosive. Demonstrations, 
marches, and occupations spread across the country, 
and with Labour in opposition, the National Union of 
Students (NUS) was free to capitalise on this anger. 
The NUS called for both local actions and large 
national marches, however on the 10th of November 
2010 it became clear they weren’t able to control the 
monster they’d helped to unleash. While students 
were still on the streets of London battling the police 
and trashing the Tory party HQ at Milbank their 
union’s leader, Aaron Porter, was on TV condemning 
their actions. The NUS continued its trajectory into 


crisis’ 


irrelevance, culminating in Porters successor being 
chased from the stage by hecklers in 2012. The NUS 
confirmed this beyond doubt when they pulled out of 
the 2014 student demonstration completely. 

Perhaps the NUS should’ve seen this uncontrollable 
level of militancy coming. The local demonstrations 
had become steadily more confrontational, as police 
repression and government indifference radicalised 
students far faster than us anarchist infiltrators the 
police were warning everyone about could. The 
student rebellion would peak on the 6th of December 
2010, the night that parliament voted through the 
cuts and fees. The anger on the street led to running 
battles with the police, the trashing of the treasury 
and west end shops, an attempt to burn Trafalgar’s 
Christmas tree, and, almost beyond belief, the Prince 
of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall driving through an 
angry mob that began chanting off with their heads. 
The Duchess was famously poked with a placard 
stick, and the secret service escort car had its rear 
window smashed by a bin. 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
Elsewhere some anarchists tried to push for a more 
horizontal and federated structure within the National 
Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), however 
despite being much smaller than the organisation 
they’d instigated, the centrist Alliance for Workers 
Liberty(AWL) was able to shut down these plans due 
to their control of the communications within NCAFC. 

Many of the other connections between students 
in different cities were fragile and informal. Despite 
the widespread influence of anarchic methods, 
attempts to create anarchist student organising 
structures never gained sufficient traction. The 
flames of resistance continued to burn over the 
next few years, most noticeably in Birmingham and 
the South East, where great strides were made in 
student/worker solidarity. Attempts by the state 
and university management to crush the remaining 
student movement backfired massively in 2013, 
with the cops off campus demonstrations proving 
students still had plenty of fight left in them. However 
in 2015 we are left without a cohesive movement; 


17 



So much focus had been on the vote in parliament 
that by the start of 2011 the movement felt drained and 
demoralised. Much of the energy left got diverted in 
attempting to win elected NUS positions in the hope of 
making it a more radical organisation. Many anarchists 
argued this strategy was counterproductive from the 
start. Even in locations where eradicali candidates 
did end up in positions of power, activists often found 
they were too bound by the structure of the NUS to be 
much help. In fact, in one Westcountry uni the most 
receptive officer to activist requests was the right 
leaning president. Never underestimate how many 
concessions a scared right wing representative will 
give you - even compared to supposedly leftist reps. 


a union not fit for purpose, the occupations not 
giving way sustained contact between universities, 
NCAFC not growing substantially beyond its 
London Centric Cell, and other leftists being 
caught up in the dead end of electoral politics. 

TUC Unions & Anti Cuts Alliances 
Whilst university organising always suffers from 
the transitory nature of university itself, the long 
established public sector unions that make up 
the majority of the TUC do not have that draw 
back. Many looked to them to lead the fight 
against cuts, some going as far as prioritising 


the active lobbying of the TUC leadership. 

The first union initiatives were the anti-cuts groups 
formed in many towns and cities, primarily by local 
union branches and the socialist activists working 
within them. However the sources of the strength of 
these groups were also the sources of their major 
weaknesses. The involvement of the traditional 
’entryist’ left often led to energy being wasted on 
petty power struggles. In the early days of the Bristol 
Anti Cuts Alliance both the Socialist Party (SP) and 
Socialist Workers Party (SWP) approached the large 
anarchist contingent - within minutes of each other - 
and asked us if we wanted to band together to pick 
who would get into elected positions. We politely 
declined. When the SP did gain the upper hand, the 
SWP members left to form the ironically named Unite 
the Resistance group in Bristol. We’ve heard similar 
reports from across the country. 

The traditional leftist/union nature 
of these groups and their initial 
membership led to traditional 
leftist/union style meetings. These 
were incredibly off putting to those 
who hadn’t previously experienced 
them. Few new people stuck around 
beyond a couple of meetings, which 
left anti-cuts groups unable to be a 
forum for the individuals and grass 
roots groups they aimed to unite. 

Like the student movement, these groups engaged 
in a flurry of activity in late 2010, mostly in the 
form of marches and rallies in their locality, but 
they were often initially reluctant to support more 
diverse actions, such as occupations, for the fear 
of legal ramifications directed at their constituent 
trade unions. In our experience it was often left to 
the anarchists within the group to actually follow up 
the talk (oh so much talk) with some genuine action. 


18 Organise! - Spring Edition 

AFed has some sucesses introducing anarchists, 
and our ideas and tactics, to the struggle via our 
Anarchists Against the Cuts initative. This was later 
replicated on a larger scale by the shortlived Network 
X. Ultimately however we still ended up bound by the 
structures already in place. 

The local action was sustained throughout much 
of 2011 but the reliance on a core of Trade Union 
activists meant that much of their available energy 
was taken up with plans for the national marches, 
strike action, and ever increasing union caseloads 
as cuts hit individual union members. The first of 
these national marches on the 26th March 2011 
was certainly a great show of strength for the union 
movement in the UK, with a reported half a million 
people in the streets. 

There was also a strong showing 
from the anarchist organisations 
with the large Anarchist Federation & 
Solidarity Federation backed radical 
workers bloc, and a 1500 strong 
black bloc that trashed The Ritz 
along with other high profile targets. 

Predictably the union leaders were quick to condemn 
these actions, even if many of their members were 
cheering the smashed windows earlier in the day. 

A little more surprising perhaps was the nine month 
wait for the TUC to launch coordinated strike action, 
in the form of a 24 hour public sector general strike. 
Luckily union activists further down the hierarchy had 
been able to keep the momentum going since March, 
and November 30th saw up to two million workers on 
strike and over a thousand vibrant and well attended 
demonstrations. It could’ve been an excellent launch 
pad for sustained action, but the TUC leadership 
was apparently hell bent on breaking the momentum 
that had been built up. They entered into drawn 
out negotiations with the government over pay 


and pensions, and their next day of strike action the 
following May involved only a fraction of the unions, 
their own estimates declaring it as only 15/ of the 
size of November 30th. 

The rhetoric changed as well, with focus switching 
from a general resistance to austerity to the specifics 
of pay and pensions, making it all the easier for the 
right wing press to play on the divide between private 
and public sector workers. Strikes by education 
workers, NH5 staff, and fire fighters continued, 
but their relative isolation meant they could only aim 
for minor renegotiations on the manner of austerity 
rather than resistance to it. 

UK Uncut 

The movement that taught us that if you got the 
owners scared enough, you can shut down a 
mobile phone shop for the day with just two people! 
It burst into being in the autumn of 2010 (you may 
be noticing a pattern here), its decentralised nature 
allowed it to spread quickly, and the media spotlight 
on tax avoidance fuelled its rapid growth. It played 
an important role in countering the idea that austerity 
was ‘necessary’ by providing a simple alternative 
(get rich corporations to pay the tax that existing 
rules dictate they should be paying already). It 
also helped popularise direct action in the form of 
pickets, blockades, occupations, and creative forms 
of disruption to dent the profits of major retailers. 

It was arguably too narrow in its scope and too 
vague in its politics, not even taking an explicitly anti¬ 
capitalist stance. This despite the majority of core 
participants having anarchist or socialist political 
outlooks and their demonstrations targeting large 
corporations and banks. Its high point was arguably 
on March 26th 2011, when using the cover of the TUC 
march, UK Uncut activists shut down Oxford Street 
before occupying Fortnum and Masons. The ensuing 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
legal action against the occupiers and their own legal 
action against HMRC would take up much of the core 
group’s energy. However, not wanting to get stuck in 
a rut, they switched focus to supporting NHS workers 
in the fight against the Health and Social Care bill. 
Despite some energetic protests, this fight had the 
same fatal flaw as the previous yearls fight against 
tuition fees - no plan B when the initial vote was lost 
in Parliament. 

UK Uncut actions continued, albeit much smaller in 
number. They has a major influence on the growth of 
Boycott Workfare, who have a clearer political stance 
and continue to win victories to this day. Additionally 
UK UNCUT were one of the first organisations to put 
their weight into supporting Disabled People Against 
the Cuts (DPAC). Like UK Uncut, DPAC used a 
creative array of direct action tactics and captured a 
swell of public anger, this time in the form of disgust 
at the governments attacks on disabled people. 
The most infamous of these attacks were the work 
capability assessments, carried out by private firm 
ATOS on behalf of the state. DPAC’s tactics were 
arguably even more confrontational than those of 
UK Uncut, and their impact could not be ignored. 
Whilst ATOS have been booted, their replacemens 
(Maximus) aren’t making any real changes, so the 
struggle will continue. 

How could we have won? 

There are several key moments that could’ve driven 
the coalition government to the brink, and perhaps led 
to the ruling class rethinking the level of their attacks. 
The first of these was when the student movement 
had sprung into action. Whilst many lecturers were 
sympathetic, and there were words of support from 
their unions, there was precious little action. Many 
students put considerable effort into working with 
staff, and if those staff had taken the risk of coming 
out on strike in coordination with the student days of 
action the gains for both could’ve been considerable. 


19 


During this time anger amongst younger sections of 
the working class was steadily increasing. Austerity 
and economic hardship escalated existing social 
tensions such as feelings of alienation, demonisation 
in the media, restricted access to education, high 
unemployment, lack of support and services, 
and incessant police harassment. All of this was 
compounded by a society that promotes happiness 
via material possessions whilst denying the younger 
generation any hope of acquiring them. This anger 
found a focal point in August 2011 with the police 
murder of Mark Duggan, and subsequent repression 
of demonstrators, triggered waves of riots across the 
country. 

At this point much of the left and trade union 
movement was either staying quiet or following the 
party political line of condemning the rioters out right 
in order to appear respectable. Anarchists were 
rumoured to have taken part in the rioting and were 
certainly hard at work in the weeks and months that 
followed offering advice and support to those fearing 


or jail. Despite this, as a movement we lacked 
a swift and organised response to the situation. 
During that week the state was loosing its image 
of control, but it was always going to take more to 
really hit back at it. This would’ve been the moment 


20 Organise! - Spring Edition 

for the unionised working class to strike, and for 
the anti austerity movement to make links with the 
rebellious inner city. Messages of support for the 
grievances suffered, and solidarity with those on the 
streets (regardless of any personal opinions some 
may have had on their methods) should’ve been 
swiftly followed by angry demonstrations and direct 
actions on the days between the nights of rioting. 

This is all wishful thinking of course, and it is 
all too easy to dwell on things we could’ve 
done better. There wasn’t, and isn’t, a strong 
enough working class movement in the UK 
to have taken these actions. So what can we 
do to build such a movement, and to achieve 
victories in the battle against austerity? 

Out of the Ashes 

There was a marked decrease in the levels of 
participation and activity in anti austerity (and 
related) struggles in 2012, activity since has been 
on the rise, but much more slowly. There have still 
been many inspiring demonstrations, 
campaigns, and victories. From Pop Up 
Unions to Solidarity Networks, Focus E15 
to Poor Doors, energy and creativity has 
sparked a resistance able to evolve to suit 
the participants and the situations they find 
themselves in. A keen sense of where the 
state and capital is most vulnerable has 
been key, from the chambers of the local 
council to the sites of developers and the 
offices of bailiffs there are many places to 
hit back. 

Collective struggles amongst people who 
are all being affected by a specific issue are 
particularly powerful, as has been shown 
by the fights for social housing in London. One of 
the reasons some of these campaigns have been so 
resilient is the effort taken by those involved and their 
supporters to create links with similar groups. This 
has allowed for mutual aid and the sharing of skills, 



21 


Organise! - Spring Edition 



it has meant that even if a campaign goes through a 
period of inactivity or ends (due to victory or defeat) 
momentum can be sustained. 


Internationalism and Escalation 
Austerity, like capitalism, doesn’t stop at borders, 
and the resistance to it shouldn’t either. This article 
has stuck to covering the movements of the UK but 
looking further afield can provide not just inspiration 
but solidarity. Joint European strike action, and 
international days of action has shown there are still 
vibrant international links in our movements, which 
can benefit us and our comrades over seas. Student 
action in Chile and Quebec has demonstrated what 
is possible when fights are not given up at their first 
defeat in parliament. 


Where these struggles appear, or where there is 
potential for them to appear, they should be offered 
as much support, solidarity and skills to as possible. 
They should also be assisted in resisting attempts to 
take them over, force them in particular directions, 
or use them to serve other projects at their own 
expense. Comrades in Action East End have set an 
impressive example linking struggles together, and 
building alliances organically from the ground up, 
rather than the attempted top down alliances of the 
past, aided by their reputation for support. Spreading 
news and making others aware of the battles taking 
place around is another key task n especially when 
the people learning about these battles are facing 
similar challenges. 

Achieving a campaign’s stated aims will always be its 
priority; whether that campaign is industrial action, a 
housing struggle, or a fight to keep a service open. 
These aims are more achievable and the campaigns 
themselves strengthened when they join together 
in a more general anti capitalist resistance, this is a 
view we should share widely if we are to secure gains 
for the working class. 


This international struggle against austerity 
is primarilly a demand for capitaism to 
provide us with a much larger cut of the 
wealth we create as workers. 


However, it could and should go far beyond a desire 
to return to the pre-crisis days of 2007 (remember, 
things were pretty shit back then too). We must 
demand the things our communities need and 
desire, and take or create them directly wherever 
we have the means to. These demands will come at 
the expense of capitalism’s masters and their profits, 
indeed there will come a point where capitalism is 
incapable of giving us everything we demand. So be 
it, a movement with the power to overturn austerity 
will be one capable of overturning the entire capitalist 
system. It turns out «no more cuts» may be a far 
more revolutionary demand than many of us realised. 














22 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


The increasing troubles faced by capitalism are exhibited in the ongoing situation in the Near 
and Middle East. We take a look at the situation in Libya, Israel, and Palestine, and the constantly 
developing situation in the region encompassing Iraq, Iran, and Syria. 

War and Barbarism 


Libya: The fall of Gaddafi and the developing 
civil war 

Libya experienced the same fate in 2011 as 
previously suffered by Iraq and indeed Somalia and 
Afghanistan. It was subject to a massive military 
attack that deposed the Gaddafi regime, leading 
to the dictator’s death, many thousands of civilian 
deaths, and the hacking up of the country. Until then 
Gaddafi had been seen by the West as a useful ally 
in ensuring the stability of Libya and the surrounding 
region. Tony Blair had developed good relations with 
the dictator. Gaddafi had maintained control of Libya 
through a combination of repression and relative 
economic wealth through oil revenues. The Sarkozy 
government in France unleashed its military power 
against Libya in a savage wave of bombing under 
the mantle of NATO. In this it was supported by the 
Coalition government in Britain, with the implicit 
support of the USA. Why had this happened? 

Gaddafi was looking towards building up an alternative 
power base to the West in Africa. He talked about 
increasing the power of the African Union, of creating 
an African Central Bank and an African Monetary 
Fund with an African common currency. This would 
have threatened both the euro and the American 
dollar. In addition Libya was moving to take over the 
Arab banking corporation in Bahrain and had built 
up $200 billion in foreign reserves and encouraged 
Chinese development of the Libyan infrastructure. 
Whilst manoeuvring in an on-off courtship with the 
western powers, he was simultaneously continuing 


accords with China and Russia. He was thus 
viewed as volatile and unreliable by the West. 

The French intervened to stop Gaddafi’s sale of oil 
to China, and to the Italian corporation Eni. They 
hoped to gain favourable terms with a new regime 
installed after Gaddafi’s overthrow. Hence the war 
was not created by France wishing to help the 
dissident movements in Libya but purely for greed. 

Unfortunately for France, and indeed for all the 
Western powers, oil production in the chaotic situation 
now reigning in Libya has caused oil production there 
to be 5 times lower. The war between the different 
factions in Libya has resulted in increasing attacks 
on oil wells. We now have three governments in 
Libya. In Tobruk a new “constitutional dictator” has 
emerged in the shape of Abdulla Al Thani. This is the 
regime that has received backing from the West. He 
is supported by Halifa Haftar, who controls many of 
the troops from the old Libyan army. They are at war 
with the Islamist government in Tripoli led by Umar Al 
Hasi. Like their rivals in Tobruk they wish to protect 
the oil wells in the region they control. 

ISIS, the Caliphate of Al Baghdadi in Syria 
and Iraq, has established itself in the towns 
of Derna and Sirte. The area ISIS controls is 
on the Gulf of Sirte, in between the Tobruk 
and Tripoli regimes and so of strategic and 
economic importance. 


23 Organise! - Spring Edition 


In addition there are the 140 tribes in Libya, who whilst 
they have no oil wells, can threaten the pipelines and 
water supplies from the oases. 

The Tobruk regime is backed by both Saudi Arabia 
and Egypt. Meanwhile Qatar is supporting the 
Islamists in Tripoli. Egypt is deeply opposed to both 
the Tripoli Islamists and Libyan ISIS, as this could 
lead to reinforcement of the Islamist internal enemies 
of the Al Sisi regime. It has already conducted 
bombing raids against ISIS following the slaughter of 
Egyptian Coptic Christians by ISIS. 

The Tobruk regime for its part is backed by Turkey 
and Qatar. Turkey is looking to become a big oil 
broker in the region, and is building up its facilities in 
that sphere. It is thus opposed to its rivals in Saudi 
Arabia and Egypt. Qatar has long been in rivalry 
with its major oil rival Saudi Arabia, and now sees 
the military regime in Egypt as another threat. As for 
Libyan ISIS it is secretly supported by factions in the 
ruling elites in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere in 
the Arab world. 


new Egyptian regime. In addition other supporters 
and benefactors like Syria and Iran were now pre¬ 
occupied with other matters and had quarrelled 
with Hamas, as had Hezbollah in Lebanon. The 
developing economic crisis on a world level also 
made the situation in the Gaza Strip worse, with most 
of the population below the poverty line. The welfare 
programme of Hamas is in tatters. It finds it difficult to 
even employ the civil servants of its administration. 

Similarly, the rival group in Palestine around the 
Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank is also 
in trouble and has had to form an alliance with Hamas. 




Israel and Palestine 

The Hamas administration centred in the Gaza Strip 
section of Palestine has been under severe stress 
in the last year. The arrival of the Sisi government 
and the crushing of the 
Muslim Brotherhood in 
Egypt robbed Hamas of 
valuable financial help. It 
had obtained the allegiance 
of many Palestinians in 
the Gaza Strip through 
implementing a welfare 
programme. Financial aid 
from the Brotherhood was 
now severely hindered, 
with far tighter controls 
on the border from the 


The Israeli government led by Netanyahu 
intervened and demanded that the National 
Authority of Abu Mazen should break its alliance 
with Hamas whom it accused of being “terrorists”. 







24 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


with Hamas whom it accused of being “terrorists”. 
This was because Netanyahu was threatened at 
home, even within his own ruling party and needed 
the excuse of a military adventure to take attention 
away. This resulted in the murderous onslaught on 
the Gaza Strip. This does not seem to have saved 
Netanyahu in the long run as the March 17th elections 
threaten to destabilise his regime. 

Hamas itself had instigated rocket attacks 

on Israel to divert attention from the crisis 
the Gaza Strip was going through. 

The economic crisis has hit Israel badly, affecting 
both the working class and endangering the 
professional and managerial classes. House prices 
have shot up by 55% in the last 6 years whilst rents 
rose 30% and wages remain static. Food prices have 
soared. Defence costs are continually increasing and 
Israeli subsidies of the settlements in the occupied 
Palestinian territories are at the cost of spending 
within Israel itself. 

Netanyahu is attempting to divert attention by 
highlighting the threat of Hamas and the supposed 
nuclear threat posed by Iran. The social protests in 
Israel that were triggered by food rises in 2011 have 
not returned in a big way (though a protest camp set 
up to highlight the cost of living may point to unrest 
to come) but Netanyahu may well be punished in the 
elections. 



which it can use to buy more weapons and pay its 
troops. ISIS was a useful weapon of the Saudis and 
Qataris against Assad and the Iraqi government and 
against Iran. Now however ISIS is making a bid to 
act on its own and to turn on its benefactors. The 
USA itself had financed the various Islamist factions 
for its own ends in the region. Now both US influence 
in the region is severely under threat, as is Saudi 
control of the Middle East. Hence ISIS now has to be 
eradicated or severely weakened. Saudi Arabia does 
not want to see ISIS as an alternative pole of Sunni 
power in the region. Similarly the growth of ISIS has 
threatened the supplies of oil and gas in Syria, Iraq, 
and Iraqi Kurdistan. Now that ISIS controls some 
of the oil fields it can substitute the revenue from 
them for the lost incomes from its erstwhile backers. 

Iran is now jockeying to be seen as a possible useful 
ally of the West and its allies against ISIS, as indeed 
is the Assad regime in Syria. Already figures in the 
French government are talking of normalising relations 
with Assad, in line with their own interests in the area. 


Iraq and Syria 

We had a detailed analysis of the situation in 
Syria and Iraq in the last issue of Organise! 
Let us just sum up that Saudi Arabia and 
Qatar financed ISIS and other Islamist outfits 
in Syria and Iraq in order to attack the Assad 
regime and to weaken the predominantly 
Shiite government of Iraq. ISIS probably now 
has a bankroll of at least £2 billion dollars 



25 Organise! - Spring Edition 

French government are talking of normalising relations with Assad, in line with their own interests 
in the area. Meanwhile both Russia and China continue to back Assad in order to control gas and 
oil resources in the region, and to divert it towards their own economies and the Asian markets. 

All of these powers, whether it be the interests of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Syria, or Turkey or the power blocs 
of the USA, Russia, and China, are intent on establishing control of energy resources in the region and political 
influence. All of these sordid manoeuvres have led to the collapse into barbarism and war that we are now seeing. 
Proxy wars are now being waged in different parts of the world. Alongside this and intertwined with it is the 
economic crisis that have reduced the masses to poverty, not just in the Middle East but elsewhere in the world. 

The working class cannot benefitfrom supporting any of these different competing factionsofthe ruling class. Be itthe 
ruling class represented by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, the Zionist 
regime in Israel, the clerical reactionaries of ISIS or Iran, the Turkish state or the Kurdistan government of Barzani, 
the different factions in Libya, the military government in Egypt, or the feudal regimes in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. 

The spiral down into war, civil war, barbarism, and economic crisis and poverty can only be answered by the 
action of the masses in the Near and Middle East against ALL their masters. This may now seem difficult, but 
it is the only real alternative. Unity has to be argued and fought for, whatever particular ethnic and religious 

backgrounds, whether Arab, Israeli, Kurd, or Turk. 








26 


Rojava: Reality 
and Rethoric 


The following article is from Troploin written 
by GD & TL. As with all articles we publish, it 
does not necessarily represent the views of 
the AF as a whole. The editors of Organise! 
include it here as we feel it provides a useful 
contribution to the ongoing discussions 
around the Rojava revolution and the 
internationalised civil war taking place in Syria. 

The narrative of the Kurdish independence 
movement is well documented: its geography that 
overlaps four countries (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran), 
its division between rival parties, the propensity of 
these parties to play off one neighbouring country 
against another, sometimes one super-power 
against another, the dire consequences of these 
shifting alliances, its reliance on a large diaspora in 
Europe, its resilience to repression and internecine 
conflict, its ability to survive the ups and downs of 
international politics equalled by its incapacity to 
create a national State. Sometimes there is a thin line 
between survival and suicidal tendencies. Until 2003. 

Then three major events changed the deal for 
the Kurds, and among other effects remodelled 
the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey. 

First, after 2003, the break-up of Iraq into three 
disjointed parts: Sunni, Shiite and in the north the 
Kurdistan Regional Government, ruled by the 
PDK led by the Barzani clan, more like a Western 
protectorate, actually. 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
Secondly, the Syrian State, entangled 
in civil strife and sectarian division, 
lost control over much of the 
country, including Kurdish areas. 

Thirdly, Sunni jihadists captured a large 
swathe of Syrian territory and threatened 
the survival of the Kurdish population. So 
it was the rise of ISIS/Daesh that finally propelled 
the Kurds into the foreground. (ISIS is the English 
acronym for Islamic State in Iraq & Syria, Daesh the 
Arabic acronym for Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant.) 

If ISIS was only a danger for the lives of hundreds 
of thousands of people, the West would not be 
doing more than it has done since 2011 to stop the 
Assad regime from butchering its own population. 

As it happens, ISIS is a threat to the 
regional political balance and to 
vested oil interests, so the West is 
doing its best to prevent ISIS from 
taking over the area and its oil wells. 

The dictator Assad now appears as a lesser evil 
than uncontrollable jihadists. The implicit US support 
of a regime that the US was thinking of bombing 
into submission a couple of years ago is nothing 
of a surprise: since 1970, American policy toward 
Syria has shifted more than half a dozen times, and 
none of these reversals had anything to do with the 
Damascus rulers killing and torturing more or less. For 
the dominant powers, the spill-over effects of regional 
chaos have to be contained, by supporting Assad if 
need be, even by consolidating a Kurdish homeland. 

In Kurdish areas in the north of Syria, an implicit 
popular (i.e. trans-class) alliance was first formed 
after 2011 to self-manage a territory deserted by 
the Syrian authorities, and then in 2014 to defend it 
against the deadly threat from ISIS. The resistance 
combines former traditional ties and new movements, 


combines former traditional ties and new movements, 
women’s particularly, in a working community of 
proletarians and middle class elements, cemented 
by an emphasis on a common Kurdish nation. 

An autonomous hinterland has been established: 
Rojava (west in Kurdish), made up of three non¬ 
contiguous cantons (Afrin, Kobane and Cizire) in 
northern Syria, along the Turkish border. It is about 
18.300 square km big, with a population estimated at 
4,6 million in 2014. (By comparison, Wales is 20.700 
square km, with over 3 million inhabitants.) After the 
official Syrian military left, some fighting occurred 
between the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds, who 
repelled them. There is now “a sort of unwritten 
agreement whereby the Syrian regime leaves the 
Rojava some autonomy in exchange for Syrian 
Kurdish neutrality in the on-going civil war” <Lato cattM 

In those areas, a Kurdish majority coexists 
with various other “ethnic” groups, all 
repressed in the past by the Iraqi State. 
The disintegration of official law and order 
in the region created a power vacuum 
in northern Syria and has given birth 
to a grassroots people’s organisation, 
coordinated under the name Tev-Dem 
(Movement of the Democratic Society). 


27 Organise! - Spring Edition 

combines former traditional ties and new movements, 
women’s particularly, in a working community of 
proletarians and middle class elements, cemented 
by an emphasis on a common Kurdish nation. 

Self-defence 

“A vast cloud of “movements” — armed and 
unarmed, and oscillating between social banditry 
and organized guerrilla activity — act in the most 
wretched zones of the global capitalist junkyard, 
presenting traits similar to those of the current 
PKK. In one way or another, they attempt to resist 
the destruction of already marginal subsistence 
economies, the plundering of natural resources or 
local mining, or the imposition of capitalist landed 
property that limits or prevents access and/or use. 
(..) we can randomly cite cases of piracy in the 
seas of Somalia, MEND in Nigeria, the Naxalites 
in India, the Mapuche in Chile. (..) it is essential 
to grasp the content they have in common: self- 
defence. A self-defence that may also be considered 
vital, but which does not differ in its nature from 
what is expressed in any industrial action aimed at 
protecting the wages or working conditions of those 
who animate it. Just as it would be a sleight of hand 
to pass off a wage struggle, even if extremely fierce 
and broad-based, as a “revolutionary movement”, 



Derita 

HEMKo, 


Kobane 

canton 


Qaftiifo 

CtZIftf CANTON 


Aleppo 


EFfUN 

CANTON 


TURKEY 


IRAQ 


Ar-ftoQQAW 


SYRIA 




it is equally fallacious to overload this type of self- 
defence practiced by exhausted populations with an 
inherently revolutionary meaning.” <utocattM» 

Self-defence implies self-organisation. 

What we have in Rojava is: “(..) a real movement 
against state plunder and coercion, fighting militarily 
on its boarders and inwardly through the diffusion 
of power within them. The limits of the struggles 
in Rojava in this sense are those of struggles 
everywhere where the relation between labour power 
and capital has become a matter of repression and 
struggles that take that repression as a starting point. 
These struggles take place far from the strongholds 
of capital’s reproduction and are not directed at 
overturning relations of exploitation.” (Becky) 

The whole question is whether 
self-defence in Rojava has been 
- or could become - the way to 
an overturning of production 
relationships. 

But first, a little on nationalism. 

Nation has a newface 

21st century national liberation movements greatly 
differ from what they used to be when colonialism 
was coming to an end and the USA-USSR Cold War 
erupted in local wars by proxy, with a rich array of 
shifting alliances and millions of deaths. The Kurdish 
people paid the price for it even more so as the Kurds 
are torn between four countries. Yet the deep change 
in the nationalist agenda is not due to humanitarian 
considerations, a commitment to non-violence or a 
reading of authentic critical theory. More matter-of- 
factly, its former plank had become obsolete. 

In a nutshell, once in power, a typical national front 
programme was to cut off ties with the dominant 
power (in the Middle East, Britain until the 1940’s, the 


28 Organise! - Spring Edition 

US later), to seek assistance from its rival (USSR) and 
to develop a State-run indigenous growth based on 
collectivised agriculture and heavy industry. At least 
that was the plan. Wherever there was no adequate 
bourgeoisie, or a feeble one, national liberation opted 
for a bureaucratic instead of a bourgeois capitalism, 
looked for recipes in Marx and Mao, not Adam Smith 
and Keynes, and installed a dictatorial regime led by a 
supposedly worker or people’s party. It achieved more 
dictatorship than development, but that is another 
story. Anyway, with the demise of the USSR and 
the advent of globalisation, this became impractical. 
So, after advocating Marxism-Leninism, Guevarism 



its own version of alter-globalism. The discredit 
of socialist nationalism led to ethnic nationalism 
which in the PKK’s case morphed into a call for a 
multi-ethnic nation. Logically, this new line was also 
endorsed by the PKK’s branch in Syria, the PYD. 

Like any political movement, national liberation 
gives itself the ideology, the allies and the targets 
it can aim at, and modifies them when it suits its 
interests. In 1903, at its 6th congress, known as 
the “Uganda congress”, Zionism was still debating 
whether a Jewish homeland could be found in Africa. 


In 1914, Pilsudski did not choose between Right and 
Wrong: he supported what he thought best for Polish 
independence, and changed sides with the fortunes 
of war. The loyalty of a nationalist is not to a class 
or creed, simply to what he regards as “his people” 
and his own role as this people’s leader. Allegiances 
fluctuate and doctrines too. 


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On the ground, PKK cadres will support a landowner 
or a boss because he has influence in the area. 
They will also defend strikes or organise protests if it 
helps them rally the local people. Here they will side 
with rigid forms of religion, and there with tolerance. 
Today they will appear as traditionalists, tomorrow 
as modernists. This is politics: the PKK upholds 
what increases its power base. In the days when it 
claimed to be part of world socialism, it had no time 
for heretics like Pannekoek or Mattick, and went for 
successful Marxism-Leninism. When it espouses 
libertarianism, it does not take after Makhno, and 
prefers an acceptable version, probably the most 
moderate of all today, the Bookchin doctrine, that 
spices 19th century municipal socialism with self¬ 
administration and ecology. 

Quite a sensible choice. The PKK has had to scale 
down its ambitions and confederal municipalism is 
the only political ideology available to a party that 


29 Organise! - Spring Edition 

has to make do with States and borders because 
it cannot hope to create its own State with its own 
borders, which would mean forcefully redrawing the 
boundaries of at least two neighbouring countries. 
Making a virtue of necessity, the PKK has ditched 
“class” and “party” references, and promotes self¬ 
management, co-operation, communalism (not 
communism), anti-productivism and gender. David 
Graeber was rejoicing over the fact that in Kurdistan 
people might now be reading Judith Butler. A spot-on 
remark. Deconstruction of the political subject (i.e. of 
the proletariat as an historical agent), prioritisation of 
identities, class replaced by gender... the PKK has 
doubtlessly swapped Marxism for postmodernism. 

Speaking of a “non-State” is playing on words. 
The PKK has not given up the objective 
of every national liberation movement. 

Though it takes great care 
to avoid using a word that 
sounds too authoritarian, it 
is still aiming at creating a 
centralised decision-making 
political apparatus on Kurdish 
territory, and what better 
word for this but State? 


With the rider that this State would be so democratic 
under its citizens’ control, that it would no longer 
deserve the name of State. So much for ideology. 

In the real world, the objective of a strong internal 
autonomy coupled with grassroots democratic life is 
not utterly unrealistic. This is the condition of a number 
of regions in the Pacific: central government does not 
mind the locals keeping their customary rural society, 
self-administering themselves to a large extent, 
living off a subsistence-based economy or falling 
into poverty, as long as they do not trouble anyone. 



As soon as ore or oil is at stake, everything changes 
and if need be, the army is called in, as happened 
in Papua New Guinea. Somaliland has quite a few 
attributes of a State (its own police, currency and 
economy), except no other State recognises it. In 
the Chiapas (whose situation is often compared to 
that of Rojava), the Zapatistas have been surviving 
for twenty years in a regional semi-autonomy where 
they safeguard their culture and customs without 
bothering the Mexican federal State, providing they 
stay where they are. The Zapatista uprising was 
perhaps the first of the alter-globalisation era, as it 
did not aim at securing independence or transforming 
the whole country, but at preserving a traditional way 
of life. 

As for the Kurds, they do not live peacefully on an 
island, many of them are city-dwellers, they (un) 
fortunately sit on a lot of oil which raises world and 
money matters far beyond their command, and the 
region happens to be torn apart by endless conflicts 
and ruled by dictators. That leaves little margin for 
Rojava... or a very small and dependent place: its 
economic viability is low, but not inexistent, thanks 
to possible future oil revenue. Black gold has already 
created puppet countries like Kuwait, a rentier State 
disbursing patronage from underground wealth, and 
the Kurdish micro-State in Iraq owes its existence 
solely to its oil wells. In other words, the fate of Rojava 
depends less on the mobilisation of its people than on 
the interplay of big business and dominant powers. 


30 Organise! - Spring Edition 

If the PKK no longer demands its own State (it can’t 
have it), it wants self-ruled Kurdish regions federated 
withinseveral States, Syriaforastart (whose “territorial 
integrity” Rojava’s Social Contract recognises). It 
remains to be seen what a confederation of three 
or four autonomous trans-border zones extended 
over at least three countries would involve for the 
population. Coexisting autonomies do not do away 
with the central political structure that unites them. 
Nowhere have trans-border zones, like the one on 
the Oder-Neisse line in Europe, ever diminished 
statist power. Central “law and order” apparatus 
delegates some of its duties to local authorities. This 
is how a modern State rules. 

Construction of a democratic nation 
Though words are not everything, in politics a 
lot is in the words. The writers of Rojava’s Social 
Contract wished to avoid the termconstitution which 
reminded them of statist revolutions, but the wording 
they chose echoes 18th century Enlightenment. 
In their search for the roots of antiauthoritarian 
thought, they bypassed Bakunin and met Rousseau. 
Their Social Contract reads like a modernised 
version of past bourgeois revolutionary declarations 
of intent. 

The date is 2014, so its Preamble takes into account 
“equality and environmental stability”, and wants 
“a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, 
centralism and the intervention of religious authority 



31 


in public affairs”. This last point contradicts article 
86, which says members of the Legislative Assembly 
will take their Oath of Office “in the name of Almighty 
God”. Before passing judgement, let’s remember 
that in the British House of Commons, until 1888, 
MPs had to take an oath that excluded Protestant 
dissenters, Catholics and atheists. 

Now for the heart of the matter. Rojava will be 
based upon the “mutual and peaceful coexistence 
and understanding between all strands of society”. 
Strands, strata, social groups, classes... The French 
translation says layers (“couches”). Obviously we 
are not to understand that Rojava is devoid of social 
division. It simply means that as long as they are 
citizens of Rojava, all its inhabitants can and must live 
together in peace. There is no room for a recognition 
of class struggle in what amounts to nothing more 
than a democratic constitution. 

Rojava gives us the same speech as a bourgeois 
revolution. In the 1789 French Declaration of 
the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the right of 
“resistance to oppression” was explicit, but went 
with the right to property. Freedom was complete... 
within the limits of the Law. The same in Rojava; 

Article 41 provides for the “right to 
the use and enjoyment of private 
property” except “for reasons of 
public utility or social interest”. 

What property means socially is not that any person 
is entitled to the possession and use of his or her 
own clothes, room or bike. It means that those who 
happen to own the means of production can hire the 
labour of those who own only their clothes, room or 
bike. This is what class is about. Once that social 
frame is established, as it was in France, 1789, and 
as it is in Rojava, 2014, nearly everything else can 
be granted or promised; “separation of powers”, 
“independence of the judiciary”, “ecology balance”, 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
“freedom of speech”, women’s “inviolable right to 
participate in political, social, economic and cultural 
life”, “the elimination of gender discrimination”, the 
“right to peaceful assembly” and “peaceful protest, 
demonstration and strike”, “national resources “ as 
“public wealth” and “extractive processes (..) regulated 
by law”, “all building and land public property”, at least 
40% women in “all governing bodies, institutions and 
committees”, no death penalty, no child labour, the 
right to “political asylum”, the assurance that “No 
civilian shall stand trial before any military court or 
special or an ad hoc tribunals” and that no house 
search will take place with a proper warrant, an 
education system with no “racist and chauvinistic 
principles”, the “separation of religion and State” 
(though the Oath...). If, in an emergency, “Martial law 
may be invoked and revoked by a qualified majority 
of 23/ of the Executive Council”, “The decision must 
then be presented to and unanimously adopted by 
the Legislative Assembly.” One of the 22 Executive 
Council Bodies specialises in “Family & Gender 
Equality”. 

As a safeguard against Kurdish domination over 
Arab, Assyrian, Armenian and Chechen minorities, 
Rojava pledges to encourage a multi-ethnic “Unity in 
diversity”. Here again, this resonates as a distant echo 
of democratic revolution: E pluribus unum (“one out 
of many”) had been on the US seal since 1782, and 
was the de facto motto of the USA, until Congress 
adopted “In God we trust” in 1956. Could Rojava be 
more “secular” than contemporary America? 

Politically correct modern governance could not 
ask for more (only animal rights are missing). No 
oversight as far as conscription is concerned, though: 
every Rojava citizen can be called to military service. 
This is one of the traditional prerogatives of a State, 
which expects those under its protection or rule to 
serve in its army. Actually, it is not an army, it’s “The 
People’s Protection Units (YPG)” which only acts as 



a “self-defence” force “against both internal and 
external threats”: as we know, any political power 
makes extensive use of the notion of internal threat. 

“Without exaggeration, it is the most democratic 
constitutionthatpeopleofthisregioneverhad.”<sardarsaadi) 

Quite true. Rojava’s Social Contract defines a 
society of equals before the law: each man or 
woman only interconnects with his or her peers. 
Social division is left out, there are no more rich 
or poor, bourgeois or labourer, only citizens with 
equal rights: “a bourgeois democratic system 
that is called democratic confederation” (Zafer Onat). 

DEMOCRACY 
is the most 
adequate 
political form 
that reunites 
socially 
divided 
people. 

Change 

“Areas of self-management” cannot be created 
by law. What is the state of play in the field? 

All across the political spectrum, observers and 
visitors have reported deep daily life changes. First 
a dispersal of power, with a host of locally-managed 
initiatives and the administration of villages by 
collectives. Also an effort to collect and disseminate 
local knowledge (in regards to medicine for instance) 


32 Organise! - Spring Edition 

and to relink people to nature, exams replaced 
by interactive education, mutualism in schools to 
bridge the teacher/taught gap, communal (men and 
women) living in the university, elected commanders 
in the militia, a new approach to health care with an 
emphasis on preventative and more holistic methods 
that treat mind and body at the same time (on the 
principle that stress reduction can cause other 
diseases to decrease), and justice rendered in each 
village via an elected woman-man committee which 
mediates conflicts, decides upon the sentence and 
tries to reintegrate and rehabilitate the offender. In 
other words, an endeavour to abolish separations. 
A lot of what Western reformers and radicals try to 
implement in Europe is being experimented in Rojava. 

Maybe the most noted transformation 

concerns the relations between sexes. 

Co-ed schools are the norm. Women no longer stay 
indoors all day. Meetings are held with at least 40% 
woman attendance. All bodies have two heads, 
feminine and masculine. Encouragement is given 
to a women’s world-view and even to a new field of 
knowledge, jinology (“science of women”). Though 
feminism has been strong in the Kurdish liberation 
movement for a long time, these changes are no 
small innovation in the Middle East, and in some 
respects sex equality seems more advanced in 
Rojava than in Europe. 

On the economic ground, Rojava is trying to achieve 
optimal self-development. Under Syrian rule, the 
area had oil but no refinery, and wheat but no flour 
mill. The emphasis is now on self-reliance. 

Appearances are deceptive. Like all seasoned 
professionals, PKK and PYD master the art of 
projecting the positive image of themselves that 
outsiders wish to see. It is also only natural that the 
locals should try to impress visitors by stressing the 
most successful side of their movement. But not all is 


of it is window-dressing. Self-organisation does 
improve the everyday life of a previously neglected 
and repressed population. 

Common assemblies regularly meet with an 
attendance of several hundred people, not just 
sitting but taking an active part, with a widespread 
concern (at least partly put into practice) for the lower 
echelons to keep control over the top ones. 

Bottom and top...This brings us nearer to the crux of 
the matter. 

What is being debated? Do 
the people’s councils reach 
decisions over minor or major 
issues? 

The answer is in the question. Rojava’s council 
system is parallel to a transitional (transitions can be 
endless) government that runs a war, negotiates with 
foreign countries, reorganises tax collection, plans 
oil production, etc., like any central political institution 
ruling over a territory. In plain English, a State. And 
nobody has ever seen a State dissolve in local direct 
democracy. 

A classless people? 

As often the case in similar situations, the imperative 
of self-defence against a mortal danger (ISIS, in 
this case) has led the Kurds to form a common 
front, in the usual sense of joint action as well as 
in the 20th century political sense of a popular front. 
Solidarity has created a temporary suspension of 
social differences, but not their obliteration. 

Nobody argues that the population known as “the 
Kurds” are fortunate enough to be the only people 
in the world living in serene harmony. Like all other 
peoples, the Kurds are divided in groups with 
conflicting interests, in classes, or if class smells too 
much of Marxism, divided between dominant and 


33 Organise! - Spring Edition 

dominated, between rulers and ruled. Therefore, 
if a major social upheaval is under way in Rojava, 
when and how was the ruling class overthrown? 
Dominant groups are known to resort to all 
available means, armed struggle included, to stay 
in power. What intense class struggle toppled 
them in Kurdistan and initiated the change? 

Though such an exceptional event is unlikely to 
have passed unnoticed, those who believe in a 
Rojava “revolution” do not suggest any answer. The 
question is brushed out of the picture. Well, nearly. 
In fact, they have an explanation, summed up by 
David Graeber: “(..) the Rojavans have it quite easy 
in class terms because the real bourgeoisie, such 
as it was in a mostly very agricultural region, took 
off with the collapse of the Baath regime. They will 
have a long-term problem if they don’t work on the 
educational system to ensure a developmentalist 
technocrat stratum doesn’t eventually try to take 
power, but in the meantime, it’s understandable they 
are focusing more immediately on gender issues.” 

D. Graeber has the great merit of encapsulating the 
mind-set of a large swathe of radical opinion. What 
we are told here is that, though class and gender both 
generally matter, today’s priority in Rojava is gender 
because the class issue has been (at least temporarily) 
solved by the departure of the ruling class. What 
remains is the common people, simply the people. 

The Rojavans may be in dire straits but 
they have achieved what Western radical 
reformers vainly aim at: bringing 99% of 
the population together. 

D. Graeber mistakes a class for the persons it is 
composed of. Of course class is flesh and blood, but 
it is a lot more, it is made of social relations. The 
bourgeoisie does not vanish from an area which 
bourgeois individuals have fled. At the time of the 
Paris Commune, the ruling class left the city but 


its power structure was perpetuated during those two 
months: in the vaults of the Banque de France and their 
millions of francs the communards made no attempt 
to confiscate, and fundamentally in the continuation of 
the money economy and of wage-labour. In Rojava, 
there is no sign that the lower classes have done 
away with the market economy and the wage system. 

Rojava enthusiasts talk a lot about empowerment and 
changes in the domestic sphere: they never mention 
a transformation of exploitation relationships. At 
best, we are given examples of agriculture, textile, 
trade and construction co-ops (which we hear 
compete with private business), but we never read 
about an experiment in collectivisation. Oil wells are 
operational again, a refinery has been improvised, but 
we know nothing about the people who work there. 

Governing bodies are organising a transition from 
mono-cropping to food self-reliance: formerly State- 
owned land is being distributed to agricultural co¬ 
ops: the products are sold to the administration, 
or on the market with price control. Bread is 
subsidised. “Smuggling is huge”, reports Becky. 
That is confirmed by other visitors, and to be 
expected: in regions devoid of fixed frontiers, and 
ravaged by want and war, smugglers are illegal trans- 
border tradesmen. The extent of smuggling shows 
the resilience of a commodity economy, with its 
businessmen hiring poorly paid labour to do the job. 
Where things are bought and sold, human beings - 
labour power - are being bought and sold too. No 
equality there, and certainly little gender critique. 

As Janet Biehl, a defender of Rojava’s “revolution”, 
writes: “Some Rojavans have wages, but many 
work on a voluntary basis; still others just make a 
living, say, from a cow.” Meanwhile, people pay 
little or no income tax, and government revenue 
comes from oil. In other words, some Rojavans 
are paid a wage, some live on money earned 


34 Organise! - Spring Edition 

Isewhere, some live in a subsistence economy, and 
the non-State State sells oil. One way or another, 
money suffuses every sphere of Rojavan society. 

By and large, markets are open for shoppers at normal 
hours, commerce and crafts are functioning, which is 
an immense improvement over the situation before. 
Zaher Bader visited Cizire in May 2014 and believes 
a revolution is taking place in Syrian Kurdistan: 

“Before we left the region we 
decided to speak to shopkeepers, 
businessmen, stall holders and 
people on the market to hear their 
views which were very important 
to us. Everyone seemed to have 
a very positive view and opinion 
of the DSA and Tev-Dam. They 
were happy about the existence 
of peace, security and freedom 
and running their own business 
without any interference from 
any parties or sides.” 

At last we’ve found a revolution that does not 
scare the bourgeois. Or maybe it all depends 
on what the bourgeois class is. If D. Graeber 
reserves the notion for the top tier of the ruling 
elite, then he is right: there probably are very few 
high frequency traders and merchant bankers now 
residing in the three Rojava cantons. Thus, for 
Graber, there is no class to speak of, only a people. 



However, a man running a transport company with 
a 5-lorry fleet and employing a 15-strong labour 
force is a bourgeois. Rojava is a class society. 

The “social revolution” thesis is wearing thin, but its 
upholders hardly make up facts: their own reports 
provide enough evidence to refute their claim. The 
flaw is in the failure to ask the proper question: 

“The situation also has something in 
common with the trajectory of struggles 
around the world in the past few years. 

The state, now an agent of global capital, 
is seen as the guilty party by movements 
composed of middle as well as proletarian 
classes. Meanwhile, the nation is seen as 
the force to oppose it. Struggles rally under 
the ideology of citizenship (and the race 
and gender hierarchies this presupposes). 

The transformation taking place in 
Rojava rests to some extent on a radical 
Kurdish identity and on substantial middle 
classes contingent who, despite radical 
rhetoric, always have some interest in the 
continuity of capital and the state.” (Becky) 

Power to the people? 

Daily life is determined by production relations: as we 
have just seen, Rojavan self-managed communes 
and grassroots bodies are under the sway of business 
big and small. “When the Gods wish to punish 
us, they answer our prayers”, Oscar Wilde wrote. 
Rojava fulfils the dream of the step-by-step popular 
empowerment theorists. J. Holloway’s Change the 
world without taking power seems to materialise 
in Syrian Kurdistan. Society is supposed to be 
transformed from the bottom by a variety of gradual 
changes which will render the top helpless and 
harmless until it falls off or disappears. Therefore 
Rojavan police is not police, it can only be a 
non-police, an anti-police. Writes D. Graeber: 


35 Organise! - Spring Edition 

“Ultimately - and this is key - the security forces are 
answerable to the bottom-up structures and not to 
the top-down ones. One of the first places we visited 
was a police academy (..). Everyone had to take 
courses in non-violent conflict resolution and feminist 
theory before they were allowed to touch a gun. The 
co-directors explained to us their ultimate aim was 
to give everyone in the country six weeks of police 
training, so that ultimately, they could eliminate police.” 

The point is not to make fun of such sheer naivety, 
but to realise what it is built on: the belief that there 
is nothing to fear from former or new repression 
forces in Rojava, because real power lies with the 
people at grassroots level, in the communes and 
the local committees, so whatever government 
officials may do, whatever political manoeuvring 
wannabe leaders might engage in, we are the police. 

There is no denying the materiality of (sometimes 
multi-ethnic) neighbourhood and village networks, of 
woman collectives, that deal with a lot of issues, trivial 
(disputes) or big (school, health care, local trade), as 
well as with the necessities of war. That would be an 
indispensable component of a social revolution. But 
in the present circumstances, this community rule 
runs in parallel with a central structure that functions 
as the political head of the country. Who decides 
what? Who calls the shots? That is the question. 
The vaunted autonomy of the commune is secure 
as long as it is not exercised, as long as it does not 
compete with government. Administrating is one 
thing, big decision-taking is another. Nothing shows 
that the local councils have any real say in policy 
making. Calling this regime “Democratic Self-Rule 
Administration” hardly changes anything but words. As 
for the plan to have free elections as soon as possible, 
it is as good as parliamentary democracy can be. 

Women with guns 

Suppose we change names and dates... A lot of the 



praise showered on Rojava today, particularly on 
what is seen as its radical critique of gender, could 
have been penned in the 1930’s by observers of 
fraternal and equalitarian pioneer life in small Zionist 
communities in Palestine. In those days also, visitors 
and supporters were struck by an utterly new role for 
women. 

In the early kibbutzim, sex equality did not just 
result from progressive and socialist ideas. Material 
necessities (farming and self-defence) required not 
depriving a hard-pressed community from half its 
potential labour and armed force. For women to take 
their share of agricultural and military activities, they 
had to be liberated from “feminine” duties, so children 
were brought up collectively, a novelty for many and 
a shock for some. 

There is no evidence of this in Rojava. Having 
woman soldiers does not cause the end of masculine 
domination (if it did, Israel would be one of the most 
sex-equal countries in the world). Z. Baher,achampion 
of the Rojavan “revolution” cause, first writes; 
“There is total equality between women 
and men”, then adds half a page later: “I 
have not seen a single woman working 
in a shop, petrol station, market, cafe or 
restaurant.” 


In “self-managed” refugee camps across the 
border, in Turkey, Kurdish women take care of 
the kids while the men go looking for odd jobs. 



36 Organise! - Spring Edition 

The subversive character of a movement or 
organisation is not to be measured by the yardstick of 
the proportion of women in arms. Neither is its feminist 
character. Since the 1960’s, most guerrillas have 
used or still use a large number of woman fighters, 
in Columbia for instance. 25% of Sandinista troops 
were women, which did not bring about women’s lib: 
abortion is totally illegal today in Nicaragua. Women’s 
presence is a typical feature of the Maoist guerrilla. In 
Nepal, Peru and the Philippines, protracted people’s 
war strategy calls for man-woman equality as a 
means to pull down traditional (family, feudal or tribal) 
ties which are always patriarchal. The aim is not to 
emancipate women, but to replace the domination 
of the village elders by the rule of party cadres. The 
important role of women in the PKK-PYD owes less 
to feminist influence than to the Maoist origins of the 
party. 

Why is the woman in arms so easily 
taken as a symbol of liberation, even 
to the point of disregarding what she 
is fighting for? 

If the picture of a woman with a rocket-launcher 
can make front-page news in Western tabloids 
and in radical mags, it is because she disrupts the 
(much-declined) myth of the female inborn peaceful 
or passive nature. The right to use weapons (even 
hunting ones) has long been a male privilege, so 
reversing the tradition is viewed as proof of the 
exceptionality and radicalism of a movement. The 
stereotyped macho hero carries an unpleasant 
image, the romanticised woman freedom fighter a 
positive one. Anti-militarists do not mind civil war 
so much when women go to the front. The woman 
fighter is the redeemer of armed struggle: revolution 
grows out of the barrel of a Kalashnikov in the hands 
of a woman. Not to mention the fantasy of the female 
Avenger, wielding a gun for a good cause, shooting 
sexists and rapists: vigilantism is also redeemed when 
taken into women’s hands, as in Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 
45, a 1981 rape vengeance film. 


How Western-centric this all is. In many parts of 
the world, woman soldiers were and still are fairly 
common, sometimes in combat roles and shock 
troops. A Russian woman battalion guarded the 
Winter Palace in October 1917. In WW II, the Red 
Army had female tank drivers, snipers, etc. Women 
with guns are only an oddity for the Western mind. 

Let’s add that Assad’s army and ISIS also have a few 
woman-only fighting units. But as, unlike the Kurds, 
they ignore gender critique, they do not use women 
in front-line combat, only in police and support tasks. 

A call to arms 

It is small wonder some individuals and groups 
always prone to denouncing the military-industrial 
complex should now call for arming Rojava against 
ISIS, if we remember that in 1999, at the time of 
the Kosovo war, a few anarchists supported NATO 
bombings on Serbia... to prevent genocide. 

Where and who are these weapons to come from? 
The average proletarian has no spare assault rifle or 
grenade to secretly smuggle to Kurdistan. Should he 
or she get in touch with international arm dealers? Or 
shall we expect the Western powers to supply Rojava 
with adequate weaponry? Deliveries have started on 
a modest scale. Should we pressure the US, France 
and Britain to do more? With what means? Libertarian 
demos do not resonate as far as the White House. 
And at what political price for the askers? Nobody 
contemplates organising new International Brigades, 
though ISIS already have theirs. 

So, when voices call for military support to help 
Rojava face the jihadist onslaught, what exactly are 
they talking about? Either it is empty talk, or it can 
only mean asking for more Western air strikes. How 
and where? Bombs and missiles will rarely fall on a 
column of jihadist vehicles in the desert, and more 
often on a neighbourhood held by the jihadists, with 


37 Organise! - Spring Edition 

inevitable “collateral damage”. There is no such thing 
as clean surgical strikes. According to the Pentagon, 
coalition strikes killed 6.000 ISIS fighters between 
September 2014 and January 2015. Some day we 
will know how many Kurdish civilians died at the 
same time. 

Mass slaughter is obviously not what those who call 
for “Arms for the Kurdish resistance” really want. 
So it is empty talk. An attitude. That’s perhaps the 
worst part of the story: that in the Middle East an 
effort at self-organisation and self-defence, genuine 
but unable to transcend itself because of hostile 
circumstances, should serve in Europe and north 
America as a pretext for mobilisations and slogans 
that nobody seriously expects to be acted upon. 

Besides, would-be realists overlook one eminent 
factor. Surely military defeat dooms a revolution: 
the Paris Commune was crushed by the bourgeois 
army. But winning a war is no solution to an unsolved 
social conundrum: the Bolshevik victory in the civil 
war established the domination of a new exploitative 
class. Supposing ISIS troops were pinned down 
by US, French, British, Jordanian, etc. bombs and 
missiles, and supposing the dysfunctional Syrian 
State let Rojava survive, what revolution could 
stay revolutionary if it relied on the assistance of 
imperialists and dictators? 

Mainstream radicalism 

We are not amazed by the stand taken by some 
libertarian groups who have always endorsed 
national liberation. What troubles us more is the 
often uncritical behaviour of a larger circle of 
anarchist comrades, squatters, feminists, libertarian 
communists, even friends whom we know to have 
been more discerning. 

That milieu is capable of personal energy and 
initiative, but there is something mentally spineless 





about what one might call its “mainstream radicalism”. 
Negatively, this could be characterised by a rejection 
of institutions and mediations that stand as obstacles 
on the way to emancipation: States, parties, unions, 
parliaments, bureaucracy, also a “transition period” 
intermediate between capitalism and communism, 
even class in so far as classes perpetuate themselves 
within an endless class struggle. Positively, it 
focuses on empowerment, self-organisation, direct 
democracy and a revolution of daily life, which 
extends to all forms of domination, notably gender. 

As a result, the perfectly justified 
mistrust of promised future Brand 
New Worlds morphs into a tendency 
to believe that Tomorrow Is Today, 
providing people are already 
changing their lives here and now, 
and appear to be self-governing. 

At the same time, a suspicion of 
politics from the top develops into a 
search for concrete measures from 
the bottom, even on a small scale, 
provided that they enable people to 
rebuild social links. 

Quite a few texts on Kurdistan only consider Rojava 
from the point of view of local accomplishments, of 
what Rojavans manage to undertake in the street, 
the commune school, the district clinic or the little 
park mentioned by Z. Bader (all of which would 
be necessary components of a social revolution), 
without bothering much about the leadership of the 
PKK and PYD, because for these analysts local 
accomplishments matter more than political leaders 
and indeed determine Rojava’s policy. Their priority is 
the bottom-up dynamics, but they implicitly interpret 
Rojava as if the bottom commanded the top. What 
could we understand of nvv Italy if the events were 
only seen from the angle of general assemblies, 
wild-catting, rioting and revolutionary statements, 
with a near dismissal of the unions, the CP, political 
bargaining and State forces? Rojava is at present 
an attempt at nation-building: radicals misread it as 
community-building. 


38 Organise! - Spring Edition 

In bygone days, Marxism and far-leftism focused 
on production and work: taking over the factories, 
managing the economy, etc. Revolution is now more 
and more conceived of as a behavioural issue : 
self-affirmation, self-organisation, an emphasis on 
gender, ecology, multi-culture, reconnecting, meeting, 
debating... Revolution is thought of in societal rather 
than social terms: the word has been expanded and 
its meaning restricted. Societal became fashionable 
with the fading of radical hopes. Societal is when 
you can’t transform social structures. Social change 
is putting an end to masculine domination: societal 
change is sex parity. 

What critique of the State ? 

If what embarrasses radicals in national liberation is 
that it aims at creating a nation-State, the moment a 
national movement proclaims to be non- or anti-statist, 
and has enough appearance to that effect, radicals no 
longer object to national liberation. Then the only need 
for radicals is to consider that the nation - providing it 
remains Stateless - is after all nothing else than the 
people, and who could be against the people ? The 
people is us, all of us minus 1%, the people is 99%. 

Here libertarian thought finds itself one 
sandwich short of a picnic. 

Outright opposition to the State is one of the 
fundamentals of anarchy, and its invaluable 

merit. 

The snag is, unconditional hostility to State is 
compatible with a non-revolutionary perspective, i.e. 
with a vision of possible broad evolutionary change. 
Of the three 19th century- born main anarchist 
figures, Proudhon, Kropotkin and Bakunin, only the 
latter always maintained the necessity of a cut-off 
moment that would rupture the historical continuum, 
of a destructive/constructive break from the past. 
Proudhon was consistently hostile to revolution. 


Kropotkin came to the idea in 1899 that “(..) the 
resistance which the movement will meet in the 
privileged classes will hardly have the character 
of obtuse obstinacy which made the revolutions of 
times past so violent.” His later views were fairly 
ambivalent on that issue. Though he mentioned a 
“revolutionary period”, it is unclear in his writings 
whether “constructive agencies of mutual aid” could 
- or could not - grow within capitalism and reach a 
critical mass that would enable them to quasi naturally 
replace the capitalist system by a communist one. 
(Needless to say, Marxist thinking has developed 
a similar thesis of capitalism socialising itself to the 
point of inevitably turning into socialism.) 

Step-by-step progressive approaches 
are not inconsistent with anarchism. 

So it is not improper for a gradualist 
like D. Graeber to label himself an 
“anarchist”. For him, cross-border 
communities can develop so much 
that borders become meaningless, and 
cause “the gradual dissolution of the 
bureaucratic nation-state”. The most 
important word here is bureaucratic: 
when anything (work, money, war, 
business...) is run democratically, its 
nature changes altogether. 

The weakness of anarchism is to regard the State 
above all as a coercive instrument - which it certainly 
is - without asking why and how it plays that role. A 
State is an administrative and security-guaranteeing 
apparatus maintaining the cohesion of divergent 
interests. For anarchists, though, the State is identified 
first and foremost with imposed vertical authority. 
Once these visible forms of constraint recede, it is 
enough for some anarchists (not all of them, far from 
it) to conclude that the end of the State has come 
or is under way. A genuine communal “horizontal” 


39 Organise! - Spring Edition 

police force, for instance, will not be regarded as 
police any more. 

The libertarian is defenceless against what looks soso 
much like his programme: as he has always opposed 
the State and supported democracy, democratic 
confederalism and social self-determination have 
a lot to please him. The anarchist ideal is indeed 
to replace the State by thousands of federated 
communes and work collectives. 

On that basis, it becomes feasible for an 
internationalist to support a national movement, 
if it implements political, social and cultural self¬ 
management, or “re-appropriation of the common” in 
21st century parlance. When the PKK insists it does 
not want to seize power, but to contribute to a system 
where power will be dispersed so that everybody 
shares power, it is relatively easy for the anarchist to 
identify with this claim. 

Prospects 

The attempt at a democratic revolution in Rojava, and 
the social transformations that go with it, have only 
been possible because of exceptional circumstances: 
the break-up of the Iraqi and Syrian States, plus the 
jihadist invasion, a deadly threat which accelerated 
radicalisation. 

As things stand today, one 
possibility is that ISIS takes over 
the whole area, which would 
cause Rojava’s dissolution as a 
proto-State: Kurdish autonomy 
would revert to strips of shrinking 
land, pockets of guerrilla, which 
was its situation in all countries 
of the region before 2003. 


The second and now most probable option is that 
Rojava holds the fort with Western military backing, 
and the Rojavan republic lives on with enough 
international patronage to navigate the stormy 
waters of a crisis-ridden Middle East (among other 
challenges, having the Syrian civil war the other side 
of the border: paradoxically, as long as the Assad 
regime holds out, it could act as a reluctant and 
unreliable ally of Rojava, adding another streak of 
uncertainty). Such a new-born country would be no 
more independent than the present Kurdish micro- 
State in northern Iraq under Western protection: like 
the Kurdistan Regional Government, Rojava would 
survive only if it played the game of the great powers 
and big business. 



Oil would be both an asset and a constraint. 
For a small fragile country, geographically 
split into three parts, oil and mineral wealth 
is nothing without powerful buyers and 
allies. At the time of writing, there is only one 
airport in Cizire, under Syrian government 
control. 


40 Organise! - Spring Edition 

This would be the worst/best scenario. However 
democratic Rojava wishes to be, and even in spite 
of strong grassroots pressure, the consolidation and 
normalisation of the country would only promote what 
is compatible with bourgeois democracy, i.e. what 
does not conflict with capital hiring labour, circulating 
and accumulating money, doing business with foreign 
capital, etc. Russian “socialism in one country” was 
impossible: so is Kurdish democratic confederalism, 
whatever that means. A stop will be put to all social 
conquests with any subversive potential. 

At best (which is probably asking too 
much), there will be relatively free 
elections, little corruption, some respect 
for human rights, local self-administration 
for local matters, a better public health 
system than in neighbouring countries, 
moderately repressive police, a progressive 
education, a free press (providing it stays 
clear of blasphemy), a tolerant Islam, and 
of course sex parity, perhaps with a woman 
vice-president. 




41 Organise! - Spring Edition 

No more. Probably enough for those who want to believe in a Rojavan revolution to go on believing. Devotees 
are never discouraged by reality. When their theory is disproved by facts, they dismiss the facts. “Be more 
dialectical !”, they say: “Disregard the present : everything that looks bad today was worse yesterday, and will 
be getting better tomorrow...” 

As for the prospect of a conflict between self-organised bodies and the apparatus 
that oversees them under the PKK’s watchful eye, this brings us back to the question: 

“Who holds the real reins of power?” There is no “duality of power” in Kurdistan, no 
proletarian control from below competing for command with a political structure 
above. PKK supervision accepts communal self-governing collectives which leave it 
in charge of major decisions and which only self-manage daily life: the involvement 
of the local population does not alter the real balance of power. In Spain, 1936, the 
beginnings of a revolution were devoured by war. In Rojava, war prevails, and in 
spite of genuine efforts of Kurdish proletarians to take their matters into their own 
hands, nothing so far heralds the advent of a revolution. 


. tv?; 








A load of 

crystal 

balls: 

The election and 
beyond 

Will you bother voting this time around? If 
the answer is ‘No,’ you’re in good company. 

In the 2010 general election, a third of those 
registered to vote didn’t vote 1 . In some inner city 
constituencies, turnout was as low as 44%. 2 

This is less than half of the story, however 
- many people, particularly the young 3 , 
don’t register to vote at all, and aren’t even 
included in the turnout stats as a result. 

This is the first general election where 
individual voters have been responsible for 
registering themselves, rather than relying 
on the head of household - so we can expect 
levels of registration to be even lower. 

The State’s response to low levels of engagement 
with the electoral system has been to launch a big 
campaign to encourage voter registration. While 
libraries and children’s centres are closed or cut, 
somehow the government found £4.2 million “aimed 
at ensuring everyone in the country is signed up to 
the electoral register and has their chance to vote”. 4 

1 http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm 

2 http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout10.htm 

3 The lowest percentage of registrations is recorded for the 17-18 and 19-24 age groups (55% and 56% complete 
respectively). In contrast, 94% of the 65+ age group were registered 


42 Organise! - Spring Edition 

As well as the five lucky organisations who got 
their paws on some of the £4.2 million, big unions 
like Unite and Unison - with the backing of the Daily 
Mirror - are spending their members’ subscription 
money on campaigns to encourage voting. Special 
mention must go to Unite, who are using an image 
of the General Kitchener lifted from First World War 
recruitment posters in their “No Vote, No Voice” 
campaign - because nothing says ‘democracy’ like 
the man who introduced the concentration camp into 
modern warfare, and encouraged tens of thousands 
of working class Britons to go to their deaths in the 
trenches. 



We’ll see later why the State, the media and politicians 
of all stripes care so much about encouraging people 
to vote. But for now, let’s take a look at what they’re 
asking us to vote for - starting with the main parties, 
and then atthe so-called alternatives. It’s time to play... 

Bullshit bingo 
“Hardworking families” 

First on the bingo card is “hardworking families.” 
It seems like that’s all politicians care about, as 
a simple Google search reveals. 5 As of January 
this year, David Cameron topped the “hardworking 
families” Google league table with a magnificent 
22,500 results, followed by Ed Miliband on 9,780 
and Nick Clegg on 8,110. Clegg and Miliband’s lower 

4 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/funding-for-new-ways-to-encourage-voter-registration 

5 Searches carried out on 152015/01/ 


scores could be because they’ve managed to come 
up with their own versions of “hardworking families.” 
Miliband talks about “the squeezed middle,” and Nick 
Clegg talks about “alarm clock Britain,” for example. 
Or it could just be that no-one cares what they say. 

The Tories are big on work. And very big 
on cracking down on those who don’t 
work. Why should hardworking families 
who work hard at work pay their taxes to 
support those who don’t, they ask? Benefits 
shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice, they tell us. 


In a speech launching a flagship policy for the 
election, David Cameron told us that he wants to 
end the “well-worn path from school gate, to the 
Job Centre, and on to a life on benefits.” 6 He clearly 
doesn’t care so much about the equally well-worn 
path from Eton College, to Oxford or Cambridge, and 
on to a life on MPs’ expenses. Cameron’s proposal is 
that “Young people out of work, education or training 
for six months will have to do unpaid community 
work to get benefits, if the Conservatives win the 
election, [and] 50,000 18 to 21-year-olds would 
be required to do daily work experience from day 
one of their claim, alongside job searching”. 7 In 
other words, a massive extension of the workfare 
schemes that - despite successful legal challenges 
- led to more than half a million claimants having 
their benefits cut in the year to December 2013. 8 


43 Organise! - Spring Edition 

It seems like the Tories have abandoned all pretence 
that workfare is about helping people into work - 
not surprising when the existing Community Work 
Placement scheme costs £235 million alone and is 
faltering badly with over 500 charities pledging not to 
supply placements. It’s all about “order and discipline,” 
as Cameron was keen to point out at his policy launch. 

Labour are offering the same, but with a crude smiley 
face drawn on the baseball bat of benefit sanctions 
and forced labour. Their scheme will offer “real 
jobs” instead of placements; paid employment not 
community work. But even though the carrot might 
be a bit bigger, the stick is still there - don’t play 
along and it’s no money for you. And meanwhile, Ed 
Miliband is returning to the well-worn theme of ending 
the “something for nothing” benefits culture and 
pledging to end Job Seekers Allowance altogether for 
1821- year olds who do not have the “proper skills.” 



'Together, we are 
turning Britain 
around. Our 

long-term 
economic plan 

is working - but 
there is still much 
more to do." 


It’s NOT Left vs Right, 
It’s the State vs You! 

f rrjn mn 


6 http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21644163-governments-flagship-welfare-reform-trouble-no-credit-where- 
its-due 

7 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31500763 

8 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/14/more-jobseekers-allowance-claimants-subject-benefit- 
sanctions 


Since its introduction by John Major’s government in 
April 1996, both Labour and Tories have extended 
the scope of workfare to the extent that the power 
to send a claimant - any claimant - on a scheme 
is now within the power of the Secretary of State 
for Employment. A novel solution to the problem of 





legal challenges - give yourself the power to make the 
rules up as you go along. The use of forced labour as 
a tool of government policy has been backed up by 
more ideological attacks on claimants, to the extent 
that the word is almost synonymous with “scrounger” 
in the political dictionary. 

Furthermore, this assault on claimants and the 
worship of work has enabled further attacks on the 
social wage. 9 For example, many local authorities 
used to provide after-school clubs at children’s 
centres which provided affordable childcare and 
allowed people - most often women - to go out to 
work. These clubs were part of the social wage. Now 
in cities like Bristol, every single after-school club 
is facing closure. The conditions for launching this 
kind of attack on the social wage are twofold. First, to 
refuse or leave a job because of a lack of affordable 
childcare now means loss of benefits. And second, 
because if you don’t work, well - that makes you into 
one of those scrounging bastards we read so much 
about in the papers. 


Everyone -yes, 

will be better off under 




From Labour and Tory alike, the message is clear 
- working class people are here to do exactly and 
only that: work. There are now over 300 fewer public 
librariesintheUKthantherewerein2010,manyofthem 
closed by Labour councils. Because why do working 
class people need access to books when education is 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
all about getting the skills you need to work? Cuts 
made by Labour councils, you say? That brings us 
onto the next item on our bullshit bingo card... 

Tough choices 

No politician really wants to make cuts, or so they 
claim. No, they have to make “tough choices,” or 
“difficult decisions,” all because of “the mess we 
inherited from our predecessors,” or the big bad 
“global economy”. Politicians of all shades are 
engaged in a kind of Houdini act, all claiming that their 
hands are tied - councils have to make cuts because 
of central government. National governments have 
to impose austerity because of the global banking 
crisis - and because of what the Opposition did the 
last time they were in power, whoever they were and 
whatever it is that they did. 

Annoying as it is, there’s an element of truth to this 
“tough choices” rhetoric - although we should still 
always ask ourselves, “Tough for who?” whenever 
we hear a politician use it, and not hesitate to hold 
them accountable for their actions. 

The fact is that politicians couldn’t 
really change anything even if they 
wanted to, because of the way the 
political system is set up. 

The main aim of parliament is to keep things going 
the way they always have, so that a rich few at 
the top have all the power and the vast majority of 
us have none. Voting to pick an imaginary side in 
this pantomime just props the whole system up by 
making it look democratic. 

Yet there are parties who claim to be different. Eyes 
down for more bullshit bingo.... 


9 “When we talk about a social wage we>re talking about all the different ways that working class people receive services from the state and the ruling class that are in effect part of their share of the profits of industry. Healthcare, subsidised 
and social housing, transport and utilities like water and electricity, libraries and social services, benefits and many other things can be seen as part of the social wage. Like wage increases and shorter working days these services are 
often the result of previous rounds of struggle, victories won by the working class in the past. They are also, just like the benefits we receive at work, often used to control us.” http://www.afed.org.uk/publications/pamphlets-booklets/163- 
introduction-to-anarchist-communism.html 


45 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Vote for the real alternative 

The LibDems 

“We’re not like them, honest, vote for us,” sums up 
every LibDem manifesto pledge we’ve ever seen. 
Sadly, their encounter with government has made this 
claim slightly harder to sustain. The photograph of 
Nick Clegg pledging not to increase university tuition 
fees weeks before doing precisely that probably did 
more to convince people of the futility of parliamentary 
politics than a lot of anarchist propaganda. We put 
them in this section for old time’s sake, and also as 
an introduction to talking about.... 


As commentator Noam Chomsky points 
out, “The smart way to keep people 
passive and obedient is to strictly limit the 
spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow 
very lively debate within that spectrum 
- even encourage the more critical and 
dissident views. That gives people the 
sense that there’s free thinking going on, 
while all the time the presuppositions of 
the system are being reinforced by the 
limits put on the range of the debate.” 11 


The Green Party 

Now that the LibDem’s solitary sniff of power has put 
paid to any claim they might once have had to being 
different, the Greens are presenting themselves as 
some kind of radical alternative party to the left of 
Labour. However, threatening paycuts of up to £4,000 
for low-paid refuse workers and closing services, the 
Greens in power in Brighton have been described - 
by one of the refuse workers - as “Tories on bikes”. 
Another description could be “low rent LibDems.” Up 
until the current Tory-LibDem coalition, the LibDems 
could say pretty much what they wanted, secure - or 
so they thought - in the knowledge that they’d never 
get the chance to put it into practice. 

The Greens in Brighton have done a Clegg, but on a 
much smaller scale. No doubt the Greens in Brighton 
have made “tough choices,” with their “hands tied” by 
central government. Nevertheless, they might keep 
their solitary MP, Caroline Lucas - and maybe even 
pick up another one in Bristol’s muesli belt. However, 
the key thing about the Greens, and parties like 
them, isn’t how many votes they win. It isn’t even the 
possibility that they might be able to use a couple of 
MPs to “put pressure on Labour,” 10 as Caroline Lucas 
claims. 


The Greens might be on the fringes of that spectrum, 
but they’re still part of the exclusive debating club, 
designed to keep us quiet. And this is why everyone 
who wants to run our lives for us is so keen that we 
register, get out there, and vote - so that we place 
ourselves somewhere on that spectrum of acceptable 
opinion, and rely on leaders to run our lives for us. 


The micro-left 

While the bigger parties are making their tough 
choices, there are others who attempt to take a 
principled stand within the game of electoral politics. 

They’re easy to spot 
-they’re often selling 
papers and usually 
shouting about 
Betrayal!, although 
the placards that 
they wave seem to 
get rebranded quite 
regularly - where 
once they might 
have said Socialist Alliance, now they say TUSC 
or Left Unity. Welcome to the micro-left, a land of 
perpetual disappointment and simultaneous triumph 
of hope over experience. 


UKIP Manifesto 

May 201S 

No dogs 
No blacks 
No Irish 


[ Straight talking |m giyt) 

OGOO507 5B7 


10 Noam Chomsky, “The common good,” p. 43 


’http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/02/green-role-pressure-labour-caroline-lucas-small 










46 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


It must be an emotional rollercoaster on the left 
- you go on marches, you sign petitions, you 
place pressure on the politicians from below, you 
vote for them (with or without illusions), you call 
on your union branch to call on your union to call 
on the TUC to call on the Labour party to call on 
someone else to actually do something. And then 
they (whoever they are) don’t turn your country (or 
town) into a workers’ paradise, or even deliver on 
their manifesto promises. Gutted. Another betrayal. 
Sometimes parts of the micro-left, such as TUSC 12 ’ 
venture onto the ballot paper in their own right 
where two things are certain. First, a lost deposit. 
And second, that they’ll console themselves with the 
words, “That’s 93 votes for socialism, comrades.” 

UKIP 

If there’s one thing that everyone seems to agree on 
about UKIP, it’s that they’re different from the other 
parties. Anti-racists will tell you that UKIP’s different 
and worse, UKIP will say that they’re different and 
better, but they all agree that they’re different. It’s 
a lot rarer to see anyone point out that, in a lot of 
important ways, UKIP actually stand for keeping 
things the same. They may talk big about scaring the 
political elite and empowering ordinary people, but 
their promises are just as hollow as the ones you hear 



from the other politicians - even if their leader Nigel 
Farage can hold a pint and look as if he’s done it before. 
UKIP managed to come out of the parliamentary 
expenses scandal of 2010 unscathed, helping 
them to present themselves as anti-establishment 
outsiders - it helped that they didn’t have any MPs at 
the time. However, as soon as they have access to 
the trough, UKIP representatives don’t hesitate to get 
their snouts in there. For example, Nigel Farage took 
time off from his ordinary bloke act to claim £205,000 
for an office that was already being bankrolled by a 
UKIP supporter. 13 There’s also the case of UKIPer 
Tom Wise, an ex-copper and the first Member of the 
European Parliament to be jailed for expenses fraud. 14 

Success at the European elections 
aside, UKIP’s greatest achievement has 
been to make Nigel Farage look like an 
ordinary bloke - not hard when you’re 
up against Cameron and Miliband. But 
this blokey exterior doesn’t stand up to 
much scrutiny. Educated at public school 
Dulwich College (which, with fees of 
£12,000 per term is currently pricier than 
Eton), Farage went into the City to work as 
a trader. Hardly a man of the people, eh? 



12 Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, dominated by SPEW (Socialist Party of England & Wales, the former 
Militant Tendency) 


1 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/12/nigel-farage-europe-expenses-ukip 
http://news.bbc.co.Uk/1/hi/england/8008994.stm 


A lot of the time, anyone who’d even consider voting 
for UKIP is dismissed as a racist or unhinged. The 
public proclamations of their members, blaming 
immigrants for racism or saying they don’t trust 
“negroes” certainly don’t help. However, we don’t 
think that everyone who votes UKIP is a racist. The 
people who vote UKIP because they’re scared or 
angry about issues like jobs and housing are right to 
be angry. 

Although they’re wrong to blame these 
problems on immigrants - and when 
UKIP say that mainstream politicians 
have abandoned ordinary people they’re 
telling the truth. What they don’t say 
is that UKIP is as mainstream as all the 
other parties. Where they’re different and 
dangerous is creating a political mood 
where racist and anti-immigrant views 
are more acceptable 

but, as with the National Front and the BNP before 
them, racism and racists will be beaten on the streets, 
not by the ballot box. 

Never mind the ballots 

Many people will agree with some of our arguments, 
but still say you should vote anyway, because it’s 
the «practical» or «realistic» thing to do. But we’re 
convinced that voting is not a realistic way to solve 
anyone>s problems. Most of the time, voting comes 
down to picking a politician because you like some 
of the things they promise to do - or maybe just 
dislike them a bit less than the other candidates - 
and then hoping that they’ll live up to their promises, 
even though you have no way of forcing them to, 
and they’re often unable to do so even if they want 
to. When it comes to solving your problems, voting 


47 Organise! - Spring Edition 

is about as effective as wishing on a star. In some 
ways, it’s even less effective than wishing on a star, 
as stars tend not to cut the benefits people need 
to survive, use the police to beat up protesters, or 
throw people in prison for stealing a bottle of water. 

So what alternatives do anarchists suggest? Most of 
what we propose can be described as direct action. 
This is exactly what it sounds like: people acting 
together to solve their problems directly, without 
relying on anyone else to do it for them. And it’s not 
only anarchists who take this approach - we can see 
it happening across the UK. 

Recent months have seen an upsurge in the number 
and intensity of struggles around housing. In London 
alone, tenants and campaigners are fighting evictions 
and social cleansing - whether in Newham, Tower 
Hamlets, West Hendon or Elephant & Castle. 15 Just 
as important, these groups are coming together 
- not to form one big housing campaign, but in a 
federal way, working from below to make links with 
other groups and individuals looking to fight back. 
Most recently, a Radical Housing Network has been 
formed of these groups. 16 Unlike the traditional micro¬ 
left approach of declaring an empty organisation into 
being and waiting for people to get involved (People’s 
Assembly, we’re looking at you), this more organic 
approach is an example of federalism in action. 

Meanwhile, while the big unions like Unison and 
Unite put their energy and resources into funding 
the Labour Party and urge us to register to vote, 
people are getting together to fight the bosses at 
work, too. Groups like the Industrial Workers of the 
World (IWW) and the Solidarity Federation (SolFed) 
are winning small but important victories over 
wage thefts and discrimination. Equally important, 
workers are learning that we don’t need leaders to 


15 he Focus E15, Balfron Towers, Fred John Towers groups in East London, West Hendon in North London, the 
Aylesbury Estate in South London, and West Heathrow and Earls Court in West London. These groups are often 
skint, so don’t look for websites, try Facebook & Twitter instead. 

16 http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/ 



48 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


take on the bosses and win. Likewise in some of 
the mainstream unions like BECTU and the RMT, we 
are seeing groups of workers like those involved in 
the Ritzy Living Wage struggle make direct links with 
other workers and the community, without rel 
the full-time officers to do it for them. 

As Labour and the Tories build their e 
promises around forced labour, and vie with 
to see who can be the most anti-immigrant, it’s 
that more resistance is needed. Even thou 
task looks huge, people are already fighting b 
and not only in organised groups. The class stri 
is being fought everywhere, all the time. When 
we resist work, either by skiving or organising 
our workmates; whenever women stand up to 
everyday sexism they encounter; wherever anyo 
experiencing oppression for who they are or how the 
look stands up and says, “Enough!”. As anarchists, 
we don’t want to bring all these struggles under a 
single banner, and we certainly don’t claim to lead 
them. Instead, we work with others to spread direct 
action and direct democracy using the power of 
argument and example to build the kind of solidarity 
that can and does make the bosses tremble. 




It’s not how or whether you vote on 
7 May that will help you take control 
over your life and end the years of 
attacks from politicians of all stripes, 
it’s what you do the day after. And the 
day after that. 

And the day after that. 


49 

What the 
Suffragettes 
did for us 

(hint: it was more 
than the vote) 

Nearly all children in the UK are told at 
some point, by some well-meaning adult: 
“You must eat all the food on your plate, 
because there are children starving in 
Africa.” Around half of us are subjected to 
a second, similarly inane cliche. This one 
goes: “When you grow up, you must vote in 
every election, because women died to get 
you the vote.” 

The connection, you might have noticed, is that they’re 
both wrong-headed appeals to a sense of moral duty 
towards somebody who will be entirely unaffected by the 
action we’re told we must take. They’re also massive over¬ 
simplifications of complex issues. They concern problems 
that are created by a vast, tangled network of systems of 
power, and promote solutions that look, on the surface, 
like a personal response to those systems, but which don’t 
question or disrupt them in any way. 

Most of us are soon able to point out that starving 
children in specific regions within Africa or anywhere 
else are unlikely to know or care whether we finished 
our second scoop of over-salted instant mashed 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
potato, though they might appreciate fairer 
global economic systems governing food 
production and distribution 1 . It took me a lot 
longer to untangle the second fallacy. It was a 
lot longer before it occurred to me to try. In fact, 
there are several fallacies underlying this one, 
and it’s worth going through them in detail. 

Fallacy no. 1: The Suffragettes could 
have cared less whether or not I vote. 

Similar to the starving children in Africa, the 
suffragettes didn’t know me and had pressing 
problems of their own. What they wanted was 
not that every woman in perpetuity should be 
guilt-tripped into participating in any political 
system that used the ballot box to legitimise 
itself, but that wherever men were balloted, 
women would be too. As far as that goes, they 
got what they wanted, and those future women’s 
decisions on how to use that enfranchisement 
weren’t a major concern. In fact, the whole point 
was that they trusted future women to make 
their own decisions. Sylvia Pankhurst, for one, 
lived to reject parliamentary democracy as 
an out of date machine and refused to cast a 
vote or stand for election herself. I daresay that 
should she be haunting polling stations on May 
7th, she would be far more appalled by the cuts 
to essential women’s services that every option 
on the ballot would continue to implement, than 
at women who spoiled their ballots or stayed 
away. I like to think she’ll give me an approving 
nod as I substitute my ballot paper for a sheet 
of folded bog roll, but honestly, if I believed in an 
afterlife I’d be sure that Sylvia Pankhurst, of all 
people, would be doing something better with 
it than haunting polling booths. She’s probably 
swanning round Europe with the spectre of 
communism. 


Well, eventually. Most of us start by suggesting a parcel of leftovers. 



Fallacy no. 2: The vote was the sole legacy of 
the suffragettes, and using it the only way to 
respect their memory. 

Here’s the thing: the suffragettes never intended it to 
stop with the vote. The^y weren’t satisfied, and they 
didn’t intend us to be. We respect their memory by 
continuing their work, not by being content with it. 

We also need to remember that “suffragettes” was 
a blanket term for a diverse women’s movement. 
The vote' might have been the only demand of the 
more privileged groups, especially those in the US 
who refused membership to black, working class 
and fallen women and were happy for the vote to be 
extended only to a married and propertied respectable 
few, but who’d want to honour their memory? For 
the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK, at 
least at the beginning, there was a lot more to it than 
the vote itself. 

It was about women’s solidarity, 
women’s ability to work together 
and stand up and fight together, 
to write and speak from their own 
experience to each other and to 
the world, not just on the vote 
but sexual, social and vocational 
freedoms, including fair pay and 
reproductive rights. 


50 Organise! - Spring Edition 

of what women achieved through the process of 
fighting for it. The speeches, the publications, the 
meetings, the direct actions, the smashed windows, 
the battles with police, the martial arts training in 
preparation for those battles, the imprisonments, the 
hunger strikes, the resistance to force-feeding and 
refusal to give in: these did more to raise the status 
and confidence of women, the possibilities and 
opportunities for women as public, professional and 
political people, than the vote itself ever has, and a 
shed load more than a woman Prime Minister and all 
the other careerists who’ve cynically used women’s 
struggles to promote themselves while throwing 
working class women under the bus. 

Fallacy no. 3: Gratitude for the end of their 
disenfranchisement should put a particular 
obligation on women to involve themselves 
in the system that kept them disenfranchised. 

“Do you see what mummy gave you? Now, say thank 
you very nicely, and stop complaining.” Because, 
frankly, fuck that condescending, paternalistic shit 
right there. Working class men also fought for the 
right to vote, but do they get that cooed at them 
every time they suggest that there are more effective 
means of change than the ballot box? This attitude 
turns women’s votes into an issue of conformity 
rather than conscience, in direct opposition to who 
the suffragettes were and what they fought for. 


Being denied the vote was an infantilisation, an 
insult to women as intelligent, rational human 
beings, regardless of how much use the vote itself 
would or wouldn’t be. Using the vote was almost 
beside the point compared to what it would mean 
for women to have the vote, to not be designated 
as mere extensions of their husbands but decision¬ 
making adults in their own right. 



Getting the vote was a victory largely because 


51 


Organise! - Spring Edition 



The partial information we get fed at school paints the suffragettes as a peaceful campaigning lobby, 
who were awarded the vote because they made their case well and proved their economic worth 
while the men were being fed into the slaughter of the first world war. The truth is, the suffragettes 
achieved their aims because they were a radical, inspirational and effective direct action movement. 
They achieved incredible things for themselves and for future generations of women, and yes, they 
deserve our respect and our gratitude. But more than that, they deserve our study and our effort 
to comprehend the full enormity and complexity of their struggle. They deserve better than to be 
reduced to a single-issue soundbyte, their courage and militancy twisted into a liberal message 
of support for the system many of them never stopped fighting when their leaders were co-opted. 
They deserve so much better than to be used manipulatively, as bogeywomen to shame us into a 
tokenistic legitimisation of the very systems they opposed. 


So this polling day, whether you vote 
or organise or both, consider honouring 
the suffragettes’ memory by not using 
them as a stick to beat women with 
when they treat their vote exactly as 
the suffragettes fought to allow them 
to: as their own, to use or not, on their 
own terms. 










52 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


^ Women could no more reform the decaying parliamentary institution 
than men could...the woman professional politician is neither more 
nor less desirable than the man professional: the less the world has of 

either, the better it is for it. 

Sylvia Pankhurst on 
Parliament 


Sylvia Pankhurst, commenting on the election of 
eight women to parliament: 

AAThe return of eight women to 
Parliament marks an advance in public 
opinion. People have realised at last 
that women are persons with all the 
human attributes, not merely some of 
them and that women have an equal 
right with men to take part in making the 
social conditions under which they live. 

This country has not been first in 
admitting women to political equality 
with men: other countries preceded us 
in admitting women to the legislature, 
and we have not yet reached political 
equality in the franchise here, although 
the women of this country led the way in 
agitating for political and legal equality, y y 

It is interesting to observe that the legal barriers 
to women’s participation in Parliament and its 
elections were not removed until the movement 
to abolish Parliament altogether had received 
the strong encouragement of witnessing 
the overthrow of Parliamentary Government 
in Russia and the setting up of Soviets. 


Election to Parliament is always much more a question 
of the strength of the party machine than of the qualities 
of the candidate. An archangel would be defeated 
at the polls if he lacked a strong party backing. The 
majority of the electors vote without having heard or 
seen the candidate, who actually plays but a minor part 
in the election. Nevertheless, there was undoubtedly 
some prejudice to be overcome by the first women 
candidates; which acted as a makeweight against 
them, outbalancing what would otherwise have 
been the normal strength of the party behind them. 

This election is the first in which the electors have voted 
forthesuccessfulwomencandidatestoanyappreciable 
extent on the merits of those candidates. Lady Astor, 
Mrs. Wintringham, and Mrs. Phillipson entered 
Parliament merely as deputies of their husbands. 




Organise! - Spring Edition 
Nevertheless, on questions of the special hardships 
of women and on questions specially related to sex 
the women members of the various parties may 
sometimes show themselves a trifle before or a 
trifle behind the general standard of their party by 
adhering in some respects to what has come to be 
generally regarded as the accepted programme of 
feminism. It is so regarded because it was adopted 
by certain women of the middle and upper classes, 
who were, for their day, more or less advanced 
though narrow and prejudiced in many respects, but 
who were of forceful energetic personality and built 
up a movement reflecting their conception of what 
should be the legal status of their sex and primarily 
of their class. That programme is, in many respects, 
retrograde and, and in all respects, incompatible with 
Socialism. 

One should not expect to find new policies on any 
subject springing up from Parliament; the atmosphere 
there is arid, the life stultifying to thought. At best 
at very best -- the Members of Parliament carry on 
the politics they adopted before they entered there, 


This fact, from a democratic standpoint, was 
particularly objectionable in the case of Lord Astor 
since he was thus given a voice in ruling the people 
through both Houses of Parliament. 


The women who entered Parliament in place of their 
husbands introduced no original policies, nor do 
we anticipate that their successors will do so. They 
were nominated candidates and have been elected 
to represent certain parties, and, in the main, their 
parliamentary doings must follow that of their men 
colleagues in the party, otherwise the party will cast 
them out. 


Most of these hardships, and the more serious of 
them, cannot be remedied within the system. Most of 
them, too, cannot even be mitigated without tampering 
with economic conditions; and there, at once, the 
general party policy will certainly obtrude itself, and 
the party woman will be called to heel by the whips 
like a party man if she stray far from the party plan. 


CAPITALI 

EVEN IF IT Kl 


ARE STARVING M 






54 


Organise! - Spring Edition 



or catch up some vibrations or movements going on outside. Parliament is a decaying institution: it will pass 
away with the capitalist system: it will be replaced by the industrial soviets, when production, distribution and 
transport pass out of the hands of the capitalist, to become the joint concern of the whole people, each branch 
of industry being administered by those who are engaged in it. 

Women can no more put virtue into the decaying parliamentary institution than can men: it is past reform and 
must disappear. 

Once the special legal disabilities of women in politics were in large measure, though not wholly, removed, it 
became inevitable that there should be little difference between the woman in politics and the man in politics. 
That is as it should be. 

The women professional politician is neither more nor less desirable than the man professional politician: the 
less the world has of either the better it is for it. The time to look forward to is that in which there will no longer 
be a body of persons whose business it is to rule or to listen to speeches of the rulers and their puppets and to 
while away hour upon hour waiting to record their votes in division lobbies to the call of the party whips. 

The Soviets, under Communism, will meet for the administration of the services of the community, not to carry on 
the party warfare which is inevitable to present - day society, because it is based on competition and torn by the 
struggles of warring classes. To the women, as to the men, the hope of the future lies not through Parliamentary 
reform, but free Communism and the soviets. 


Published in Workers’ Dreadnought, 15 December 1923. 


55 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Report from AFem 2014 

Anarcha-feminist conference in London 
19th October 2014 

In October 2014, about 400 
people gathered in London, the 
day after the Bookfair, to attend 
AFem 2014, the first of what the 
organisers hope will be a series 
of international anarcha-feminist 
conferences. 



Participation 

Of those attending, the vast majority were individuals and people working in collectives, either as anarcha- 
feminists or activists around gender-oppression issues. There were also formal groups from the UK including 
Anarchist Federation, Solidarity Federation, the Sex Workers’ Open University, and the Feminist Library. We 
were excited that many came from outside the UK and those represented by groups included the Workers 
Solidarity Movement (Ireland), Black Rose (USA), International Workers Association (Poland). Strong contacts 
had developed between the AF and Black Rose, and we worked with the Solidarity Federation and IWA Poland 
on a meeting with them about the workplace. From the International of Anarchist Federations of which the 
AF is a member, the Italian, German-speaking, French-speaking federations, and of course the Spanish, who 
contributed so much to the meetings they participated in, plus the Federation of Anarchist Organising (Slovenia/ 
Croatia) were all represented. By Skype, an Iranian in exile, an American from Black Rose, and an individual 
from La Alzada in Chile participated. Individuals included those from USA, Canada, Ireland, Germany, France, 
Holland, Sweden, Poland, The Czech Republic, Brazil, and Australia. 













Reflections and reports 

On our blog and social media (facebook) sites you 
can find links to reflections by organisers and write¬ 
ups of meetings that took place on the day and 
follow-up documents. They include reports by/about: 

Accountability processes 

Black Rose (Los Angeles and Chicago,respectively) 
Disability meeting 
People of Colour 
Safer Spaces 

Sex Workers’ Open University 

We are still deciding what to do in the future. The 
organisers would almost all identify as social 
anarchists, are great comrades, and the AF certainly 
wants to work with them again. But we don’t feel able 
to do something that big in the UK again soon as was 
it too much work for only a few people. In practice 
we had about 20 organisers, with others helping with 
practicalities on the day, and while this number may 
not seem so few, we had not worked together before 
and had to spend a lot of time establishing structures 
that were both helpful and equitable. We were working 
for many hours each week, which was tiring, used 
up work or holiday time, and other anarchist work 
suffered. Some people even moved to the UK from 
abroad especially to help organise the conference! 

We also had a lot of shit to deal with, and although 
we are glad that the feedback has been almost all 
positive, we had a large number of issues leading 
up to the day and on the day, including rape- 
apologism, transphobia, anti sex-work difficulties, 
ageism, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, even more 
rape-apologism, and some just plain nasty people 
at different times. In general terms this did not 
spoil the whole event, but it did affect some of the 
organisers very badly. We felt that some people were 
behaving as though they owned anarcha-feminism, 
particularly some who have been in the movement 


56 Organise! - Spring Edition 

or many years, and the struggle against this attitude 
took its toll both prior to the event and on the day. 

Due to the pressures and stress placed on the 
organisers we will have to build in a support 
structure for ourselves to support a future event. 

Money, money, money 

Putting on such a large and diverse event does not 
come cheaply. We spent around £3500 altogether 
on publicity, building hire, travel costs, childcare, 
and so on. Much of this was raised via a website 
and through donations from organisations. However, 
it is too much to ask organisations to give us this 
money every year. As a result of these difficulties, 
our intention is to use our contacts to help smaller 
events set up and to initiate them ourselves. 



What is the legacy of AFem 2014? 

There have been events and meetings that have 
spun off from AFem 2014 or have been made more 
feasible because of it. As mentioned above, Black 
Rose (LA/Chicago) wrote a large internal report and 
are now running a series of regional speaking events 


57 Organise! - Spring Edition 

that are both report-backs on AFem in particular and jumping-off points for discussion and debate about the 
definition and practice of anarcha-feminism more broadly. Some of them are moving to Chile to work with La 
Alzada. Also in the USA, Black Rose Portland is working on a large booklet about accountability processes. 
Here in the UK, local anarcha-feminists now have a stronger network and new groups have been set up in some 
towns, e.g. Bored of Patriarchy in Bristol. Many anti-authoritarian feminist groups have associated themselves 
with AFem, which you can see on our social media site. In addition, the Peace News Camp held a connected 
meeting on trans issues; anarcha-feminist meetings have been held at regional book fairs and anarcha-feminism 
is being introduced into broader feminist events more confidently, for example Reclaim the Night and Ladyfest. 

What we should/could have done, but didn’t. 

There are probably many things that we should have done differently. We did not address disability issues as 
well as we could have, for example, we did not provide hand-outs in large print. Neither did we address cultural 
appropriation well enough in advance. There are lots of issues here. For example, some People of Colour do 
not like white people wearing dreadlocks, but should the organisers tell people how to style their hair? This is 
a matter for further discussion and learning. Also, it transpired that there was a need for a quiet space, and a 
space for people who wanted to talk or resolve conflicts. Whilst Food not Bombs cooked for us on the day, they 
were not able to feed everyone. 

Despite the difficulties, it was 
a very positive event and is, we 
hope, a turning point for anarcha- 
feminism within our movement 
and within wider society. 



An AFem 2014 organiser and AF 

member 

Visit the blog for more information 
about the event and specific 

reports: 

afem2014.wordpress.com 


Organise! - Spring Edition 

Theo Van Rysselberghe was 
one of the many artists who 
rallied to the anarchist cause 
in the late 19th century. 
Organise! looks at his life. 

Theodore Van Rysselberghe was born on November 
28th 1862 in Ghent, Belgium, to a wealthy 
family. He studied painting at schools of fine arts 
in first Ghent and then Brussels. In 1884, he 
travelled to Spain and Morocco which opened his 
eyes to the need to depict light in his paintings. 

Returning to Belgium, he helped found the 
Group of Twenty, whose secretary was Octave 
Maus. This group wanted to increase links 
between Belgian and French artists and to fight 
for an “intransigent art” and a <>conscious and 
organized insurrection against academicism«. 

This went well with Theo’s independent 
spirit and his dislike of establishment artists. 

He was a friend of the socialist poet Emile 
Verhaeren. One day in 1886 Verhaeren told him 
to come down to Paris to see the painting in 
the new divisionist/pointillist style by Georges 
Seurat, Un Dimanche Apres-midi a Mle de 
la Grande-Jatte [A Sunday Afternoon on the 
Island of the Grande-Jatte]. He was so affected 
by the painting that he broke his cane in half! 

He determined that he would now paint in the 
new style. He made contact with other painters 
like Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro, Maximilen 
Luce, Henri-Edmond Cross, and Charles Angrand. 

All of these had strong anarchist convictions 
and contributed both financially and artistically to 
the French anarchist press. Van Rysselberghe’s 
rebellious temperament was attracted to 
these ideas and he too became an anarchist. 



Theo Van 
Rysselberghe 


Another of Theo’s friends was the art critic 
Felix Feneon, also extremely active in the 
anarchist movement. Feneon introduced 
Theo to the group of Symbolist writers 
In 1892 Theo gave money for a fund for the children 
of an imprisoned French anarchist. After the wave 
of repression against anarchists in France in 1894, 
many fled to Belgium, including Camille Pissaro, the 
geographer Elisee Reclus, and the writer Bernard 
Lazare. Pissaro wrote that: «Theo is really charming 
with us and does everything to make the time enjoyable 
for us.» Pissaro and Van Rysselberghe painted 
together in Bruges and Knokke. It should be noted that 
Pissaro was beginning to move away from divisionist 
techniques that he regarded as too cold and clinical, 
something which Van Rysselberghe was to do later. 

Theo was a friend of the anarchist activist Jean 
Grave and he supported Grave’s call for artists 
and writers to involve themselves actively in the 
anarchist cause. He supported Grave’s newspaper 
Les Temps Nouveaux (New Times). The dilemma of 
the committed artist is highlighted here. He was to 
write to Grave that whilst he was keen on providing 
works, he could not supply drawings on demand. He 
was to again write to Grave in 1905 that: ”As much 
as I would like the pleasure of sometimes giving you 
a drawing — without any connection to any text, nor 
even with the philosophical or social ideas of the 
journal — it would be difficult to make one to fit your 
purposes. A drawing finds sufficient cause in its purely 
graphic interest, and that if it has value (as a graphic), 
it will even have an educational role, perhaps even 
better than a drawing with literary or philosophical 
meaning. Whatever the meaning might be, I am 
particularly inept at that kind of drawing: Everything 
I have tried to do has given me too much trouble, 
and to my eyes has been a complete botch-up.” 

Nevertheless Theo provided a series of designs, 
Les Errants (The Wanderers) for Grave’s articles on 


59 Organise! - Spring Edition 

the homeless. He was also to illustrate a pamphlet 
by the anarchist thinker Kropotkin on Anarchist 
Morality and to provide illustrations to Grave’s 
novel for children on the future society Les 
Aventures de Nono (1901). He also offered his 
works as prizes for fundraising raffles organised 
by Les Temps Nouveaux in 1899, 1900, 1908, and 
1912, also presenting three water colours in 1909. 

In 1898 Theo moved to Paris where he deepened 
his contacts with the Symbolist writers. By now Theo 
was himself moving away from divisionist techniques 
and his long and close friendship with Signac 
suffered as a result, especially when he moved to a 
classicist style which resulted in a final break in 1909. 

Theo moved to Saint Clair on the Cote d>Azur in the 
south of France in 1911. There he built a house with 
his brother Octave and fellow painter and anarchist 
Henri-Edmond Cross. Division had been replaced 
by a freer use of brush strokes coupled with a more 
pronounced emphasison light and weather conditions. 

He died on December 13, 1926. 

Feneon wrote that his friend’s greatest wish had 
been to live in a caravan, put on travelling exhibitions, 
and once successful, to burn all his paintings, to 
avoid speculation by art collectors. Ironically, most 
of his works are now in private collectors’ hands. 



Elisee Reclus 




60 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Book review 

The Wobblies 
in their Heyday 

The rise and destruction of the 
Industrial Workers of the World 
during the Word War One Era. 

by Eric Thomas Chester. 

317 pages. 
Praege 



nOBISLILS 

111 vmv 


The Rise and Destruction 
of the industrial Workers 
wxtf the Wor d during the 
world War 1 Era 


ERIC THOMAS CHESTER 


This book is refreshing in that it is written 
by an actual member of the IWW, currently 
active in Glasgow and thus marks itself off 
from the usual detached academic approach. 


Chester is convinced that this radical stance 
led, not to failure as standard accounts 
maintain, but to many workers joining because 
they did indeed want to transform society. 


The Industrial Workers of the World was a mass 
workers’ organisation that emerged in 1905 in the 
USA. It soon gained the nickname of The Wobblies. 
It led two bitter strikes in Lawrence and Paterson 
in 1913 that established its radical and fighting 
reputation. Despite the Paterson and Lawrence 
strikes, it failed to get as much traction in the eastern 
States as it hoped. In the West it was a different 
matter. Here large numbers of miners, loggers, and 
farmworkers joined up to the IWW, some leaving the 
established unions for an organisation that openly 
proclaimed the abolition of the wages system: “The 
working class and the employing class have nothing 
in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger 
and want are found among millions of the working 
people and the few, who make up the employing 
class, have all the good things of life. Between these 
two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of 
the world organize as a class, take possession of the 
means of production and abolish the wage system” 

(from the IWW Preamble) 


With thecomingofthe First World Warthe IWWactually 
increased its influence, particularly in the Western 
states, where the war was unpopular. An economic 
boom accompanied and was indeed set off by the war, 
which raised the fighting morale of workers. By August 
1917 IWW membership had increased to 150,000. 
Until the coming of the war the Federal government 
only regarded the IWW as an irritant. However 
this changed quickly once the United States had 
entered the War. In particular the IWW organisation 
of copper workers was seen as a threat because 
copper was essential for the war effort, as it was 
used in guns, bullets, vehicles, and warships. 
Government officials and advisers now began 
to focus on the IWW. John W. Davis, the 
solicitor general and acting attorney general, 
talked about the “extermination” of the IWW. 

A relentless attack began on the IWW until it was 
greatly reduced in size and influence, and was rent 
by bitter divisions. The Federal Government also 


attacked the Socialist Party of America, but this party 
did not have the organisational cohesion of the IWW. 

Only particular sections of the SP, the most vociferously 
anti-war, were targeted, and the federal authorities 
did not aim at its destruction lock, stock, and barrel. 
Chester says: “The coordinated campaign of 
repression directed at the IWW was a unique 
occurrence in U.S. history. In the ferocity of the assault 
and the scope of the attack, the government’s offensive 
on the IWW remains unequalled.” In order to do this 
the U.S. Government flouted many civil liberties. 

The book deals with the strike of copper miners in 
Bisbee, Arizona, which led to an unprecedented 
mass deportation of said strikers - 1200 in total! - 
in 1917 and the horrific lynching of IWW organiser 
Frank Little in Butte, Montana. Butte was the largest 
copper-mining area in the USA and Wobblies, in 
alliance with left-wing socialist miners, created a 
strong local workers organisation. In response, 
company gunmen and the Army bloodily intervened. 

The IWW stance on the War is also dealt 
with in detail. The IWW had always opposed 
war and militarism, but its leadership now 
peddled a muted approach in the hope that 
this would deflect the mounting repression. 

It was militants like the martyred Frank Little 
who pushed for a clear anti-war stance. 

In 1917 the Federal government, in coordination 
with state governments, made membership of 
the IWW a crime. The Army intervened in many 
areas, and soldiers were ordered to disrupt IWW 
meetings. The Post Office banned IWW papers in 
the mail. Some foreign members were arrested 
and deported. Hundreds of Wobblies were 
jailed with mass trials in Chicago, Sacramento, 
and Wichita. Many IWW leaders received long 
sentences at Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas, 
with punitive hard labour that affected their health. 


Organise! - Spring Edition 
As a result of this the IWW was crippled and 
weakened. Chester claims that in 1924 internal 
dissensions as a result of this repression, fostered by 
the authorities among the prisoners in Leavenworth, 
caused a damaging split. 

But should we accept this scenario. Yes, there was 
bitterness between those who stood by a collective 
amnesty and those who obtained an individual one. 
But many other factors were at work with the 1924 
disaster. Not least of these were the differences 
between the decentralisers and the centralisers 
within the IWW, between the local branches and the 
Industrial Unions and the General Executive Board 
and General Headquarters. Also in play were those 
IWW members who had now joined the Communist 
Party and who backed the centralisers. It should 
be borne in mind that the IWW had refused to join 
the Moscow-backed Red International of Labour 
Unions. As a result the American Communist Party 
worked actively towards the destruction of the IWW. 











Some of Chester’s other theses should be questioned 
too. He says that the IWW was wed to “the macho 
bravado” of the idea of sabotage as developed by 
French anarchists like Emile Pouget and supported 
by leading Wobblies like Big Bill Haywood. He 
claims this helped initiate the repression that came 
down on the IWW during the War. Sabotage was 
used in various ways to support strikes in the pre- 
WW1 period but really should it not be argued that 
the repression that the IWW suffered was because 
it was damaging the war effort, which Chester 
himself clearly states. Whether the IWW advocated 
sabotage or not was a by the by, as the Federal 
Government were looking for any excuse to attack it. 

Did the IWW’s failure to develop a clearer 
stanceontheWarhaveaneffectonitsability 
to attract more support as Chester claims? 


62 Organise! - Spring Edition 

Certainly whether the IWW adopted a clear anti¬ 
war position on all fronts, it was victimised because 
it affected the war effort full stop. As Chester 
argues, it would have been better to have taken a 
clear position to “uphold its commitment to building 
a social movement pointing to a new society”. 

Certainly whilst the repression against the IWW 
during WW1 was unprecedented, perhaps more 
could be made of the fact that this opened the way for 
a following wave of repression known as the Palmer 
Raids, in the period after the war. A. Mitchell Palmer, 
the new Attorney General launched a series of raids 
against radicals (and not primarily the Communist 
Party as Chester states but in particular anarchists) 
resulting in the deporting of 500 radicals from the 
USA, including anarchists like Emma Goldman. 


He asserts that anti-war feeling was strong in 
the Western states and that “millions of workers 
were looking to the IWW for leadership”. Certainly 
Haywood and the General Executive Board refused 
to oppose the draft and refused to come out openly 
in support of draft resisters. But would the IWW have 
been able to act as an organising force for workers? 
Was anti-war feeling as strong as Chester claims? 


Perhaps also a comparison with the FBI 
Cointelpro campaign against Black Panthers, civil 
rights groups, the American Indian Movement 
etc. in the 1960s could have been made. 
There is much of interest in this book, in particular 
much information about the debates on the 
War within the IWW, and it certainly deserves a 
read, despite the criticisms made in this review. 



63 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Book review 

The Method of Freedom 


An Errico Malatesta Reader, edited 

by David Turcato. 
550 pages 
AK Press 


Davide Turcato has written on Errico Malatesta in 
his Making Sense of Anarchism: Errico Malatesta’s 
Experiments with Revolution, 18891900-, which came 
out in 2012. There he gave an overview of the career 
and political development of Malatesta. Now Turcato 
has compiled a collection of Malatesta’s writings in 
this new book, which is an appetiser for the project 
of all of Malatesta’s writings in ten volumes(!) to be 
also brought out by AK Press in the coming period. 

Malatesta was one of the ablest militants of the 
international anarchist movement and he was active 
in it for more than sixty years. From his association 
with one of the founders of anarchism, the Russian 
Bakunin, within the first mass organisation of the 
working class, the First International, through his 
exile in Argentina, Egypt, and England, and on to 
his involvement in the revolutionary events in post- 
World War One Italy and his final house arrest 
by Mussolini and subsequent death, Malatesta 
maintained a more or less uninterrupted activity 
for the cause. He was above all distinguished 
by his pragmatism, his advocacy of effective 
organisation, his many articles for the anarchist 
press expressed in simple and uncomplicated 
language that explained often complex ideas. 

Here indeed we have many articles on the problem 
of organisation. He again and again underlines the 
need for anarchists to create effective organisations 


and to relate these organisations to the mass 
of the people. At the same time he emphasises 
the need to steer away from electoralism and 
the abandonment of the revolutionary road, just 
for “something to do” in the place of struggle. 

Above all, he urges anarchists to immerse 

themselves in the daily struggles of the 
working class. 

Whilst he welcomed the development of anarcho- 
syndicalistand revolutionary syndicalistorganisations, 
he was all too aware of their shortcomings. He was 
one of the first to develop the idea of the General 
Strike as a revolutionary weapon as the result of his 
observation of the strikes in Britain in 1889. Whilst 
he lauded the effectiveness of this method he did not 
think it could be the be-all and end-all of revolutionary 
struggle. He does not confuse it with the social 
revolution itself, stating that “It would only be a splendid 
opportunity for making the Revolution, but nothing 
more.” A general strike would have to be transformed 
and supplemented by revolutionary action. 




64 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


The book contains many of his best known explanations of anarchism and of anarchist aims, including his 
Anarchy, Towards Anarchy, and The Anarchist Programme. His committed internationalism is revealed 
in his polemics against his old comrade Kropotkin, who took the side of the Allies in the First World War. 

Similarly he addresses himself to the many problems of social revolution in his no- 
nonsense way. He outlines the problems that an unfolding revolution would face and how 
they could be overcome, whilst at the same time criticising Leninist concepts of revolution. 

There is much here of value to both newcomers to the anarchist movement, and those who would like to learn 
more about anarchism, as well as veterans of the movement. Malatesta’s ideas are argued in an uncomplicated 
and pragmatic way, and his grasp of strategy and his clear-headed approach are at all times apparent. 

A valuable contribution to the renewal of the revolutionary anarchist project. 


kk 


byANARCHIST SPIRIT) mean 

THAT DEEPLY HUMAN SENTIMENT 


WHICH AIMS AT THE GOOD OF ALL 
FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL 
SOLIDARITY AND LOVEFOR ALL 
WHICH IS NOTAN EXCLUSIVE 
CHARACTERISTIC OF SELF-DECLARED 

ANARCHISTS, BUT INSPIRES ALL PEOPLE 

WHO HAVE A GENEROUS HEARTH ■ 

AND AN OPEN MIND## 



65 


Organise! - Spring Edition 


Obituary: Colin Parker 


1948-2015 


by Nick Heath 


Colin Parker was born in the pit village of Crook 
in Co. Durham on 15th December 2014. His 
father Martin was a miner. He apprenticed as 
a fitter-turner after leaving school at the age of 
fifteen. He worked as a lathe operator in the 
local factory owned by Marshall Richards, a 
manufacturer of wire and tube making machines. 

At an early age he joined the local library and became 
an avid reader of books on politics, art and history. 
With three of his brothers he joined the local Labour 
Party and was associated with the Militant Tendency 
within it. He and his brothers were expelled for 
confronting a local Labour Party official, Colin 
being the most vociferous of all. He subsequently 
joined the Communist Party. 

He was sponsored by his union to 
attend Ruskin College in Oxford in 
1969. After the end of the course 
he moved to London to study a 
politics degree at East London 
Polytechnic. He then went to the 
London School of Economics 
and got an MA in politics in 1974. 


class people to achieve greater educational 
success and get more from their lives”. 
In the meantime he had left the CP and flirted 
with various Trotskyist groups. The Workers 
Revolutionary Party considered him an important 
enough catch to send around Vanessa Redgrave 
to his council flat in central London, but he was 
not convinced. He then attended Socialist Workers 
Party branch meetings but started asking too many 
questions about their politics. All of this was part 
of his evolution towards class struggle anarchism. 

He began producing a duplicated magazine named 
Virus and subtitled For Militant Anarchism in 1984 
during the height of the miners’ strike. He contacted 



The following year he took a teacher 
training course and in 1976 became 
a teacher at Barking College of 
Further Education where he worked 
until his retirement in his early sixties. 
As his son Martin noted: “He aimed 
to reach out and empower working 



66 Organise! - Spring Edition 

the Libertarian Communist Discussion Group the following year and suggested that Virus become the 
mouthpiece of the Group. Regular meetings were held at Colin’s flat and a network of contacts was 
built up around Britain, leading to the founding of the Anarchist Communist Federation in March 1986. 
He was active in the ACF, subsequently renamed the Anarchist Federation, until his death. 

He took an active part in support for the miners’ strike and then attended many demonstrations during 
the Wapping printers struggle. He threw himself into the struggle against the Poll Tax and refused to 
pay. He was arrested during an anti-Poll Tax demo and subsequently fined. He was a stalwart of the 
London group of the AF for many years, always warmly welcoming new contacts and providing an 

uncomplicated introduction to its ideas. 

After his retirement he returned to Crook. He died as a result of a brain aneurism on January 22nd 

2015. 


He passionately hated the police, the various Leninist outfits, and former radicals who had sold out, 
which included some of his workmates who had accepted management positions. He remained devoted 

to revolutionary anarchist ideas to the end. 


He was a warm and generous person, with a wide knowledge of politics, history and art, which he had 
acquired through his own reading. I was fortunate enough to have him as a close friend and comrade 
for thirty years. His death has come as both a loss to me personally, to the AF and anarchism. 



67 


Organise! - Spring Edition 



Pamphlets 


We in the Anarchist Federation seek the abolition of capitalism and state in 
favour of bringing about a society based on the guiding principle ‘From each 
according to their ability, to each according to their need.’ This is anarchist 
communism. In order to achieve this we need a revolutionary organisation 
to undertake a certain role as part of the working class. All libertarian 
revolutionaries should read this fundamental text. 

Read/download free online or order a print copy (£1.00 +p&p). 

Translations of an older edition of The Role of the Revolutionary 
Organisation is also available in French: Le role de I’organisation 
revolutionnaire, and Serbo-Croat (print-only). 


Introduction 
to Anarchist 
Communism 


Anarchist 



The main text lays out the 
fundamental ideas of anarchist 
communism. It is a really good 
overview of the politics of the 
Anarchist Federation. Various insets 
throughout the text give examples 
from history to illustrate the ideas 
described in the main section. 



This 2014 fully updated 4th edition 
of our first ever pamphlet outlines 
the ideas of one of the 19th 
century founders of class struggle 
anarchism whose birthday was 200 
years ago. 

£1.50 +p&p. 


Printed copies £2.00 +p&p. 











Aims and Principles of Afed 


The Anarchist Federation is an organisation of revolutionary class 
struggle anarchists. We aim for the abolition of all hierarchy, and work 
for the creation of a world-wide classless society: anarchist communism. 

Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the working class by the ruling class. But 
inequality and exploitation are also expressed in terms of race, gender, sexuality, 
health, ability and age, and in these ways one section of the working class 
oppresses another. This divides us, causing a lack of class unity in struggle that 
benefits the ruling class. Oppressed groups are strengthened by autonomous action 
which challenges social and economic power relationships. To achieve our goal we 
must relinquish power over each other on a personal as well as a political level. 

We believe that fighting systems of oppression that divide the working class, 
such as racism and sexism, is essential to class struggle. Anarchist-Communism 
cannot be achieved while these inequalities still exist. In order to be effective in our 
various struggles against oppression, both within society and within the working 
class, we at times need to organise independently as people who are oppressed 
according to gender, sexuality, ethnicity or ability. We do this as working class 
people, as cross-class movements hide real class differences and achieve little 
for us. Full emancipation cannot be achieved without the abolition of capitalism. 

We are opposed to the ideology of national liberation movements which claims that 
there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in 
face of foreign domination. We do support working class struggles against racism, 
genocide, ethnocide and political and economic colonialism. We oppose the creation 
of any new ruling class. We reject all forms of nationalism, as this only serves 
to redefine divisions in the international working class. The working class has no 
country and national boundaries must be eliminated. We seek to build an anarchist 
international to work with other libertarian revolutionaries throughout the world. 

As well as exploiting and oppressing the majority of people, Capitalism threatens 
the world through war and the destruction of the environment. 

It is not possible to abolish Capitalism without a revolution, which will arise out of 
class conflict. The ruling class must be completely overthrown to achieve anarchist 
communism. Because the ruling class will not relinquish power without their use of 
armed force, this revolution will be a time of violence as well as liberation. 

Uniong by their very nature cannot become vehicles for the revolutionary 
transformation of society. They have to be accepted by capitalism in 


order to function and so cannot play a part in its overthrow. Trades unions 
divide the working class (between employed and unemployed, trade and 
craft, skilled and unskilled, etc). Even syndicalist unions are constrained 
by the fundamental nature of unionism. The union has to be able to 
control its membership in order to make deals with management. Their aim, 
through negotiation, is to achieve a fairer form of exploitation of the workforce. 
The interests of leaders and representatives will always be different from ours. The 
boss class is our enemy, and while we must fight for better conditions from it, we 
have to realise that reforms we may achieve today may be taken away tomorrow. 
Our ultimate aim must be the complete abolition of wage slavery. Working within 
the unions can never achieve this. However, we do not argue for people to leave 
unions until they are made irrelevant by the revolutionary event. The union is a 
common point of departure for many workers. Rank and file initiatives may 
strengthen us in the battle for anarchist communism. What’s important is that we 
organise ourselves collectively, arguing for workers to control struggles themselves. 

Genuine liberation can only come about through the revolutionary self activity of 
the working class on a mass scale. An anarchist communist society means not only 
co-operation between equals, but active involvement in the shaping and creating 
of that society during and after the revolution. In times of upheaval and struggle, 
people will need to create their own revolutionary organisations controlled by 
everyone in them. These autonomous organisations will be outside the control of 
political parties, and within them we will learn many important lessons of self-activity. 

As anarchists we organise in all areas of life to try to advance the revolutionary 
process. We believe a strong anarchist organisation is necessary to help us to this 
end. Unlike other so-called socialists or communists we do not want power or control 
for our organisation. We recognise that the revolution can only be carried out directly 
by the working class. However, the revolution must be preceded by organisations 
able to convince people of the anarchist communist alternative and method. We 
participate in struggle as anarchist communists, and organise on a federative basis. 
We reject sectarianism and work for a united revolutionary anarchist movement. 

We oppose organised religion and cults and hold to a materialist analysis of 
capitalist society. We, the working class, can change society through our own 
efforts. Worshipping an unprovable spiritual realm, or believing in a religious 
unity between classes, mystifies or suppresses such self-emancipation/ 
liberation. We reject any notion that people can be liberated through some kind of 
supernatural force. We work towards a society where religion is no longer relevant.